Light up the night--and not just during the holidays. You can find string lights to enhance your property, provide visual safety on paths, spotlight a feature or sitting area, substitute for open candles or bulky lanterns, or just add some sparkle to the yard. Outdoor string lights can cost pennies or represent a serious investment, so it is smart to know the available options before purchase. Incandescent, LED and solar power are your main choices and each has its advantages.
Incandescent String Lights
Break out the Christmas lights and brighten up the eaves and the front porch. Classic incandescent bulbs are a holiday staple and now you can enjoy twinkling or steady lights year round on the patio or in the garden. Choose from hundreds of designs--strings of red chilli peppers for your barbecue pit or graceful Chinese lanterns for the gazebo. There are clear globes, twinkling dragonflies, bass-shaped lights for the fishing camp, purple grape lights for the arbor, orange pumpkins for Halloween and those dependable, multicoloured Christmas lights for the traditionalist. Incandescent bulbs do use the most electricity and they can get hot, so follow manufacturer's instructions and don't leave lights on all night unmonitored.
LED String Lights
LED bulb string lights use about 90 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs. The bulbs last longer, too. They have an average life of 10 years or 100,000 hours. And you decrease any fire hazard with LED lights because they put out almost no heat. LEDs are brighter than incandescent bulbs but there are now more colour options so you don't have to settle for blinding white light. Pick up bargain strands of "icicle" lights right after the holidays to save even more.
Solar String Lights
Solar string lights are green, no matter what colour you opt for. They come with both LED and incandescent bulbs and the strings are attached to a solar collector, which powers the lights after dark. You can hook or drape the strands anywhere--tuck them in among the greenery or attach to the edge of a patio umbrella--but place the solar collector where it gets full sun for most of the day. You can find handblown and coloured glass globes and copper hanging hooks for beautiful, nonplastic, environmentally-friendly outdoor ambience. A photo-light sensor automatically turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn.
Marine Rope Lights
An all-weather alternative to open strings is rope lighting--strings of bulbs encased in clear rubber tubing that can be draped or fastened anywhere you would put outdoor lighting. Known as "marine ropes" when they are used to outline the decks or lines of sailboats, rope lights come in incandescent, LED and solar versions, varied colours and sizes and can be controlled to burn steadily, twinkle or "chase" each other in waves. You can use them to mark a driveway or walkway for night safety or just enjoy their low-maintenance illumination in your backyard or garden.
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