Walk into any big box store this holiday season and you’ll see two, maybe three, options for Christmas mini lights: Number of bulbs, bulb color, and if you’re lucky, wire color. After all, these are the only choices most people consider.
But “most” people aren’t informed buyers. Any informed buyer craves selection, and that’s why we offer literally hundreds of mini light choices at 1000Bulbs.com.
Of course, with so many choices available, we realize it can be frustrating to find just the right mini lights you need, so to make that process easier, here’s a quick guide to buying mini lights.
Have you ever had to double or triple-wrap a Christmas tree with lights to make it bright enough? The typical set of mini lights has bulb spacing (the amount of wire between individual bulbs) of 12 inches. In almost all cases, that’s too far apart.
The maximum bulb spacing for a Christmas tree, gutter, or house trim should be 6 inches, not 12. To wrap an outdoor tree trunk, pole, or banister, tighter bulb spacing of 4 inches is better. For wreaths, garlands, and other objects with a small diameter, you may even want to go with 2.5 inch spacing.
Wire gauge isn’t just a topic for electricians. When it comes to mini lights, the thicker the wire, the longer it lasts and the more end-to-end connections you can make.
The standard wire gauge for mini lights is 22 AWG, but for especially long runs or harsh outdoor conditions, use a thicker wire gauge of 20 or even 18 AWG (the smaller the number, the thicker the gauge).
Lead and Tail Length
Lead length is the distance from the outlet (the male plug) to the first bulb in a set of mini lights. It is typically 3 to 6 inches, but many shorter “craft” lights have longer leads of 2 feet or more.
Longer leads are great for wall-mounted items like wreaths that are usually far away from a wall socket. Having a longer lead means you won’t have lights “floating in space” before they reach their destination.
Tail length is the other end of the string (the female plug) that connects to the next string in the series.
Mentioned earlier in the section on wire gauge, mini lights with a thicker wire gauge are able to handle more end-to-end connections. Though the exact number may vary, most 22 AWG 100 light sets are UL listed for up to three end-to-end (male to female) connections. A 20 AWG set of the same length may be rated for twice that—6 connections. Exceed that recommendation and the fuses within the light string will overload and burn out.
Interestingly, the recommendation for a 50 light set is usually the same. Why? For safety reasons, UL does not recommend more than three end-to-end connections for a 22 AWG string light of any length. If you plan a particularly long run, it is better to use a few 100 or 150 light stands than several shorter strands.
What Are Your Plans?
What are your Christmas lighting plans this year? Let us know what you have in store. Drop us a line in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. If you have something especially interesting, we may even pin it on Pinterest!
To make your Christmas decorating as easy as possible, here are all the different types of LED Christmas light strings currently available, along with a brief description and application ideas for each type.
LED Mini Light Strings: Also known as M5 LED lights, these emulate the look of incandescent mini lights. Most have faceted caps that disperse the light from the LED, though some newer LED mini lights look identical to their incandescent counterparts.
LED Wide Angle Mini Lights: Though these do not directly emulate the look of mini lights, they serve the same function. Wide angle LED lights (sometimes called “Polka Dot” lights) use a 5 mm concave lens to disperse light in a wide, circular pattern. See this graphic to better understand how Wide Angle lights work.
LED Commercial Light Sets: New this year, these special low-voltage light sets are meant for commercial applications. Also known by the brand name “Versaline,” these low-voltage lights use proprietary, daisy-chained controllers and connectors for amazing effects in large civic, business, and theme park displays.
LED C6 Light Strings: Sometimes called “strawberry” lights, these strings feature 3/4 inch diameter faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Slightly larger and brighter than LED mini lights, C6 strings are popular for indoor applications including garlands and Christmas trees.
LED C7 Light Strings: These strings feature 7/8 inch diameter smooth or faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Though typically used outdoors, they are sometimes seen indoors where they create a strong, richly-colored “pop.”
LED C9 Light Strings: These strings feature 1-1/8 inch diameter smooth or faceted bulbs permanently affixed to wire. Unlike C7 strings, these large, bright bulbs are visible from large distances and are almost exclusively used outdoors to line everything from rooftops to sidewalks.
LED G12 “Berry” Light Strings: These strings feature 12 mm (about 1/2 in.) diameter berry-shaped globes permanently affixed to wire. Their unique “berry” shape is sometimes preferred to the cone shape of C6 strings and makes them a popular choice for wreaths and garlands.
Programmable LED Light Strings: Not to be confused with commercial light sets, programmable LED light strings feature built-in, multi-function controllers and large lights in creative shapes like icicles and oversized C7 bulbs. The controllers on these lights are deceptively simple, with just a few buttons able to create a unique light show.
InvisiLite LED Light Strings: Great for centerpieces and small wreaths, these strings feature tiny LED bulbs set on bendable and formable wire that virtually disappears against a green background. The wire is slightly rigid, so it holds its shape and affixes well to any type of artificial greenery.
What is your choice for Christmas lights this year? Will you be using LED or sticking with old-fashioned incandescent? Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to share your project ideas on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest pages. We especially like to see your pictures!
Halloween is just around the corner, and if you’re looking to have the spookiest haunted house on the block, we’re here to help! You can take a look at our Halloween lights page and even our brand-new lighted Halloween decorations for some quick ideas, but to go all-out, you’ll need to check out our Christmas lights.
If you find yourself asking why anyone in their right mind would use Christmas lights anytime outside of well…Christmas, put the incredulous tone aside for a minute and consider this: Though typically associated with the winter holidays, Christmas lights have all kinds of other uses, from weddings to birthday parties, so why not Halloween?
Looking for inspiration? Try these creepy Halloween ideas for colored light strings and bulbs: Use purple lights to create an eerie glow reminiscent of the full moon in a cemetery, or use orange lights to emulate the smoky flicker of a candle. Don’t stop there! Green lights emit the sickly pallor of toxic sludge while red lights ooze the unmistakable curdle…I mean, color…of blood. Another idea for light strings is to fit medium base patio light stringers with antique light bulbs for an efficient and portable “Addams Family” vibe.
Keep in mind, however, the idea is to scare the neighbors, not yourself. To avoid those spine-chilling energy bills this fall, you can go green with LED wide-angle lights or LED M5 lights for your Halloween display. You can also save on energy bills with battery-operated lights. A string of battery-operated LED Christmas lights, for example, is an energy-saving (and much safer) alternative to candles in your Jack O’Lanterns.
It’s that time of year again: Christmas in July. Not only does this magical season give you the opportunity to buy discounted inventory, it also allows you the best chance to secure 2012′s “latest and greatest” high-tech Christmas lights and decorations. You don’t want to be the only home on the block without them, do you? These products move fast, so if you pick up only one or two light strings, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a larger quantity of matching lights when you need them later in the year.
Buying matching lights is essential since mixing lights from two or more manufacturers inevitably leads to color and performance discrepancies, especially among LED Christmas lights. If you aren’t careful, come October or November you could be stuck with a collection of off-colored, flickering light strings with irregular spacing and a phone book’s worth of manufacturer names. In the 2011 Christmas season, 25% more of our customers chose LED over traditional incandescent Christmas lights, when compared to the 2010 season. That’s the most rapid adoption of any technology we’ve seen, and it’s especially amazing considering traditional incandescent lights outnumbered our LEDs last year two to one. We project even bigger LED adoption this year, so if you don’t want to find yourself in the scenario described above, buy early and in bulk.
The increasing adoption of LED Christmas lights means we’re putting special emphasis on LED quality this year. Our buyers have traveled to trade shows and lighting fairs around the country to hand-pick the best Christmas lights available. Not all LEDs are created equal, so we only bring in the LED lights that do best in demonstrations and that manufacturers test for longevity. In some cases, we’ve even had lights manufactured to our custom specifications!
If you’re still skeptical about LED technology, consider this: A recent poll on our Facebook page shows that while some customers are still waiting to switch, early adopters of LED lights are overwhelmingly satisfied with them. Since LED technology becomes more efficient and less expensive every year, you can bet our 2012 selection will meet your expectations. If you’re still wondering just what LEDs can do for you, watch our Christmas YouTube videos to see some of the infinite possibilities of LED Christmas lights.
If you transition to LED lights this year, you’ll have a partner every step of the way in 1000Bulbs.com. Industry-leading professionals have trained our sales staff to assist customers with large orders, ensuring the products you buy are compatible with each other and guiding customers in the setup of more intricate systems. If you have a question down the road, our customer service team can answer questions and aid in troubleshooting. Rest assured we will do everything possible to ensure you have the best lighting display possible this Christmas!
Ah…summertime. Warm weather, pool parties, barbecues, and bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Few things can turn a summer day into utter misery faster than a swarm of flying insects. You’ve tried greasy bug spray, citronella candles, Tiki torches, maybe even blowtorches. So we can imagine your surprise when you saw a yellow-colored “bug light bulb” at your local hardware store. Could it be true? Could screwing in a light bulb solve your bug problems for good?
To answer that question, let’s start by clearing up some myths about yellow incandescent bug lights and their energy-saving cousin, compact fluorescent bug lights. Bug lights do not kill bugs (you’ll need a bug zapper or Paraclipse fly trap for that), nor do bug lights repel bugs. Bug lights simply attract fewer bugs than other light bulbs. In short, a bug light will not magically solve your bug problem, but it will make you and your home less visible to most flying insects.
As discussed in a past article, light is divided into multiple wavelengths, measured in nanometers (nm), as you can see in the graph below. The human eye can only perceive a small band of wavelengths in the light spectrum, from about 390 to 750 nm. Insects perceive a similarly small band of the light spectrum, though their band of vision is shifted further to the “right” of the spectrum than ours. In fact, any wavelength higher than about 650 nm is virtually invisible to most flying insects.
Image courtesy of Chemistryland.com
So why are bug lights yellow? Wavelength and color temperature have an inverse relationship, which you can also see in the graph. As the wavelength of a light source decreases, its color temperature increases (as according to Wien’s displacement law). Low color temperatures are red-yellow and exhibit a long wavelength, while high color temperatures are blue-violet and exhibit a short wavelength. By coloring a bulb yellow, then, the manufacturer has decreased the color temperature and in doing so increased the wavelength into a spectrum unseen by insects.
That’s the science of how bug light lights work, but the larger question is whether they are effective. From personal experience, I can say yes, they are. However, bug lights are not a panacea for all your bug problems. This is for a couple reasons. One is that not all insects are the same; different bugs see slightly different wavelengths. Second, no light source is made up of one, pure wavelength. Even an apparently yellow light may exhibit some shorter (and bluer) wavelengths that insects may still see.
To get the most out of your bug light, remember this: The bugs aren’t there because they like the light; they’re there because they like the smaller (and tastier) bugs that buzz around the light. If these smaller bugs sense any light whatsoever, it won’t be long before they buzz their way to bask in it. And once the small bugs are there, it won’t be long before the bigger bugs follow. Once that happens, you have a bug party on your hands, light or no light. The best thing to do to avoid a swarm of bugs is to turn the light off when you don’t need it.