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Your Guide to the Best Christmas Lights of 2024

Written by Joe Roberts

Published on December 1, 2022


Your Guide to the Best Christmas Lights of 2024

Shopping for Christmas lights to brighten this holiday season? Read our guide to find the best lights for your home, pathways, and Christmas tree.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

Read about our editorial process here. Want to use our cost data? Click here.

Bright and colorful Christmas lights are an important part of what makes Christmas cheery and joyful, even in the heart of winter. Without holiday decorations to illuminate the long, cold nights, December is just another dreary month on the frigid road to spring. Keep the holiday spirit alive this winter with warm, twinkling lights your whole family will love.

Of course, not all Christmas lights are the same. Some attach to a home’s exterior, others are better for sprucing up a tree or wreath, and others can light walkways. With today’s technology, your Christmas decorations can be far more energy-efficient than those from the golden days of yore. Some can even be programmed and controlled with your smartphone!

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to choose Christmas lights, weigh the pros and cons of hiring a professional installation crew, and point you to our top picks for the best Christmas lights money can buy in 2023. Keep reading to get the light show started!

Get your Christmas lights done professionally this year

How much does professional holiday light installation cost?

On average, homeowners pay $250 to $650 to get Christmas lights professionally installed on their homes. The biggest pricing factors for this service are home size and lightbulb type. It costs significantly more to decorate a 4,200-square-foot home with large, high-end lights than it does to decorate a 1,000-square-foot home using string lights with smaller bulbs.

However, this service can be much cheaper if you supply the lights yourself. Hiring pros to install Christmas lights you already own is $0.50 to $1.50 less expensive per square foot than hiring them to install lights you buy from them. To learn more about pricing for this service, check out our Christmas light installation guide.

Despite the comparatively high costs for professional installation, it’s usually worth the price. Lights are an important holiday tradition, but risking life and limb scaling slippery ladders and running extension cords all over the place doesn’t have to be. Leave walking on your snowy rooftop to Santa Claus.

Besides, between shoveling your driveway, winterizing your sprinklers, and preparing holiday feasts, you have enough work to do. Let the pros hang your lights for you. 

What to look for in Christmas lights

Christmas lights come in a nearly unlimited variety of styles, colors, and functions. While this lets each home stand out from those around it, it means that the lights that work for your neighbor aren’t necessarily the best options for you. Finding the perfect lights for your unique array means balancing a few different priorities. 

Energy efficiency

Unless you like spending hundreds of dollars on your utility bills every winter, energy efficiency should be one of your top priorities when you’re purchasing Christmas lights. Opting for high-efficiency lights allows you to maintain an extravagant display each night without racking up your power bills.

Luckily, prioritizing efficiency can be as simple as choosing LED lights instead of options that use incandescent bulbs. Compared to incandescent lights, LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy.

If you want the most energy-efficient and cost-effective lights available, though, opt for solar-powered Christmas lights. These come with solar panels and rechargeable batteries so they can light your home all night without costing you anything for the power. 

Indoor vs. outdoor functionality

Christmas lights come in three classifications: indoor only, indoor/outdoor, and outdoor only. Each light’s packaging or online listing will tell you what type it is. 

Outdoor Christmas light displays require weatherized outdoor lights crafted to withstand wet and icy conditions. Using indoor lights outside in the middle of winter can result in fires and electrocution, so indoor lights should only be used inside.

Some lights meant for outdoor use, on the other hand, might be safe to use indoors, but they’re often too bright to pleasantly decorate a Christmas tree, archway, or banister. Additionally, the bulbs of some outdoor lights burn so hot they can cause fires when used indoors, so it’s safest to only use indoor-rated lights for interior displays. 

Lights that are rated for both indoor and outdoor use are the most versatile. They’re weatherized and bright enough to be seen outside, but they stay cool enough to safely use on an indoor tree. If you want multifunctional lights you can use on your house this year and on your tree next year, pick up a set of indoor/outdoor Christmas lights. 

Bulb shapes

There’s seemingly no limit to the variety of bulb shapes on Christmas lights, and bulbs that look like snowflakes, icicles, reindeer, snowmen, and Santa Claus can all make light displays more whimsical. However, using too many lights with distinct shapes like these can be distracting and clutter up your display.

That’s why standard Christmas lights aren’t really shaped to look like anything. Most are simply almond-shaped so that they can provide color and light without overly complicating the decor. They do come in different sizes, though, which makes some better suited to different placements than others.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the different sizes of standard Christmas light bulbs: 

  • Dome bulbs are small and rounded. They can be used as accent lighting to light pathways and other landscaping features. They usually have a diffuse glow instead of a bright twinkling appearance. 
  • C3 bulbs are relatively small, usually no more than 4/8 inch long. This slight profile makes them great for wrapping around branches and wreaths. 
  • C5 bulbs are slightly larger than C3s, but they’re still small enough to sit close together on a strand. They’re versatile enough to use on a tree, around a doorway, or on a roof. 
  • C6 bulbs are larger still, though they’re roughly the same shape as C3s and C5s. This means you won’t find as many of them on a strand of the same length, though their larger size means they can be seen from farther away. 
  • C7 bulbs, in addition to being slightly larger than C6s, also have a rounder shape so they look more like strawberries or teardrops than almonds. This wider diameter means they aren’t often packed very tightly along a strand, but they do provide more illumination than smaller sizes. This makes them a great option for outdoor displays. 
  • C9 bulbs are the largest size of standard Christmas light bulbs, and they usually measure at least 2 ½ inches long. This is too large for most indoor displays, but it means they can help an outdoor display to really pop.

Wire length

The length of each wire of Christmas lights is an important factor to consider when shopping. If you only need to decorate a small tree, getting a 100-foot strand of lights means you’ll have piles of excess lighting hanging off it. On the flip side, getting a strand that’s only 20 feet long to decorate your whole house won’t cut it either. In this situation, you’d either have to get a longer strand or multiples of the smaller option and daisy-chain them together.

Be warned, though, that you can’t combine strands of lights indefinitely. Connecting too many strands can be a fire hazard, though the exact number of strands you can link together depends on the lights. The box of each set will tell you how many you can safely connect.

Additionally, you should only connect lights to each other if they’re all the exact same brand and model. Mixing different lights can result in overloaded wires, exploded bulbs, and even electrical fires.

Ideally, you want a single strand of lights that reaches all the way across or around whatever surface you’re decorating. If you find some lights you love in an option that’s too short, though, purchasing two or three sets and linking them together is probably an option.

To determine how many feet of Christmas lights you’ll need, use a measuring tape to find the dimensions of every soffit, banister, and bush you plan to decorate. 

The best Christmas lights

Now that you know what to look for when you’re shopping for Christmas lights, here’s a breakdown of the options we think are the best. 

LED Christmas lights

Multicolor LEDs like these can efficiently brighten your Christmases for years to come. Image source: The Home Depot

LED Christmas lights can be more expensive than incandescent options of the same bulb size and strand length. However, they can actually save you a lot of money over the course of a few years.

In addition to keeping energy costs low while lighting up your home, LED lights are made to last 25 times as long as incandescent alternatives. This means that you won’t have to replace them as often, thereby saving even more money in the long run.

LEDs are actually becoming much cheaper than they used to be, so you may not even have to spend extra upfront to get these high-efficiency, long-lasting Christmas lights. 

The best LED Christmas lights

Incandescent Christmas lights

Incandescent bulbs use burning filaments to provide illumination, so they can get very hot to the touch. Image source: Amazon

Despite their low efficiency and high operating costs, incandescent lights are still a popular option for homeowners who want to give their holiday light displays a traditional look. LED Christmas lights are a relatively recent development, so incandescent light displays harken back to Christmases past.

Additionally, incandescents can be cheaper than LEDs, though like we said, this isn’t as true today as it was only a few years ago.

The best incandescent Christmas lights

Solar-powered Christmas lights

Solar-powered Christmas lights come with solar panels and rechargeable batteries. Image source: Amazon 

In addition to their energy efficiency and eco-friendliness, solar-powered Christmas lights offer another distinct advantage: convenience. Because they’re powered by solar panels, they don’t require you to run extension cords all around your property to create a beautiful display. You simply have to mount or erect each panel near the place where you’ll install its lights.

Of course, solar lights come with one small drawback. You have to place their panels in spots that get plenty of sunlight throughout the day or their batteries won’t charge. However, with a little planning around placement and orientation, you can make this a non-issue. 

The best solar-powered Christmas lights

Indoor lights for your Christmas tree

Warm white lights like this give a Christmas tree a classic, understated elegance. Image source: Overstock

The lights on your Christmas tree are probably the ones you’ll look at most often, so it’s important to pick the ones you love. If you’re going for a simplistic theme with your holiday decor, pick mono-colored lights. If you want a more flashy and exciting array, though, multi-colored or color-changing lights might be more your speed.

Whatever color scheme you choose for your tree, be sure to get lights that are rated for indoor or indoor/outdoor use. As we said earlier, lights that should only be used outdoors can be a fire hazard when used on an indoor tree, especially if it’s an authentic one.

Alternatively, if you want to skip hanging lights on your tree every year, many artificial Christmas trees come with built-in lights. Some of these trees lock you into one light style every time you use them, but others have programmable settings, which let you change their colors and patterns so you can easily tweak your holiday decor to fit your mood. 

The best Christmas tree lights

Programmable Christmas lights

Programmable Christmas light displays are highly interactive, and they allow you to modify your lights using a remote or app on your smartphone. Image source: Amazon

If you want the most versatile light display you can get, consider investing in some programmable holiday lights. These options are a bit more expensive than standard lights, but they allow you to modify your display’s colors and patterns at will using a remote or downloadable smartphone app.

Many programmable lights also come with preset display patterns that alternate light colors or gently strobe for a charming twinkle effect. Smart Christmas lights can also be programmed to sync with music to turn your light display into an audio-visual extravaganza.

You can even link some programmable lights to your smart home’s central control system so you can manage them with your AI assistant for optimal convenience.

The best programmable Christmas lights

Permanent lights: the most convenient alternative

Permanent Christmas light installations stay up year-round so they can be used to celebrate any holiday. Image source: EverLights

For many people, shopping for Christmas lights and arranging a new display every year is a fun tradition, but we wouldn’t call you a Scrooge if you’ve grown tired of it. Luckily, you can skip all the chores involved and still participate in the fun by getting permanent holiday lights installed on your home.

Permanent holiday lights wire directly into your home’s electrical system, so you don’t need to run electricity to them from power outlets, and they’re meant to stay up all year. To kickstart the holidays, you simply have to turn the system on like any light in your house. And, like the programmable lights we mentioned above, the colors and patterns of many permanent lights are completely customizable.

The best part is that since these lights stay up, you can use them year-round to celebrate holidays other than Christmas. For New Year’s Eve, you can program the lights to sparkle like fireworks. For Halloween, you can program them to shine a spooky orange or flicker Frankenstein green. And for the fourth of July, you can set them to shine a patriotic red, white, and blue. The possibilities are virtually endless.

The only downside is that permanent light displays can be very expensive to install. Exact prices depend on the size of your home and how programmable your system is, but on average, permanent light displays cost somewhere between $3,000 and $3,500.

Help to make the season bright!

Christmas isn’t Christmas without festive light displays illuminating homes and filling neighborhoods with holiday cheer. Now that you know how to choose your Christmas lights, you can join the fun better than ever before. And if you want to skip the whole installation gig, you can hire a professional lighting crew to do it for you so you can get back to sipping hot cocoa and wrapping gifts. 

Hire a professional to hang your Christmas lights for you

Written by

Joe Roberts Content Specialist

Joe is a home improvement expert and content specialist for Fixr.com. He’s been writing home services content for over eight years, leveraging his research and composition skills to produce consumer-minded articles that demystify everything from moving to remodeling. His work has been sourced by various news sources and business journals, including Nasdaq.com and USA Today. When he isn’t writing about home improvement or climate issues, Joe can be found in bookstores and record shops.