The holiday season is here, and decorations are on everybody’s mind. It’s time to get festive, play your favorite tunes, and trim the tree. Then, the inevitable happens. You open up last year’s box of Christmas lights, and all of them are dead. Now what?
It’s time to invest in some new Christmas lights. But while you’re buying some anyway, why not get lights with all the latest features? Nowadays, that means cool-running LED bulbs and ideally app control. Yes, modern Christmas lights come with apps, and they’re more energy efficient than old-school lights. But which ones are going to last the longest, and give you the best bang for your buck?
We’re about to review three of the best indoor and outdoor Christmas tree LEDs on today’s market. We’ll start with the ELight Outdoor String Lights. This is a mid-length, 39-foot string that supports smartphone app controls. Next, we’ll look at the Twinkly RGB Multicolor LED String Lights. These lights come in multiple lengths, and support Razer Chroma controls. Finally, we’ll review the DreamColor Outdoor String Lights. These lights are only 16 feet long, but the large number of control options makes them worthwhile. Which lights are the best for your tree or yard? Let’s look closer, and find out!
Why Use LED Bulbs?
For most purposes, LEDs now dominate the modern market. But there are still plenty of incandescent Christmas tree bulbs going around if you want to go that route. The main advantage of incandescents is that they’re cheap — about half the cost of comparable LEDs. However, LEDs will pay for themselves after a couple years of use. This is because they’re much more durable than incandescents. When you pack them up for the year, you can more or less assume that they’ll be working next Christmas. As a matter of fact, LEDs now outpace incandescent Christmas bulbs in overall sales.
A large part of this is due not just to their durability, but to their energy efficiency. Incandescent bulbs waste as much of 90 percent of their energy in the form of heat. As a matter of fact, they’re so inefficient that they qualified as space heaters in the EU for a while. LEDs on the other hand, convert almost all of the electricity to light. This means that an LED bulb requires only a little over 10 percent as much power as a comparable incandescent. This has allowed manufacturers to produce small, battery-powered lights like LED TeaLight candles.
This energy efficiency has another, related advantage. Because LEDs produce very little heat, they’re less likely to start a fire. This is a particularly important consideration if you’re lighting a real tree indoors.
How to Hang Christmas Lights
Hanging Christmas lights will be a bit different depending on your application, and this starts with the time of day. When you’re hanging outdoors, sunlight can make it tough to see even very bright bulbs. To see how your creation is progressing, you’ll want to hang your lights in the evening. If that doesn’t work with your schedule, a cloudy day can suffice. On the other hand, you can string an indoor Christmas tree at any time of day. If you have trouble seeing the lights, just draw the curtains. That should dim things enough for you to see clearly.
In most cases, you’ll be stringing your lights on an evergreen tree. In that case, the general rule of thumb is to use 100 bulbs for every foot of the tree’s height. So, for a 10-foot tree, you would need 1,000 bulbs. This is a good general rule for indoor Christmas trees as well. For a 7-foot tree, 700 bulbs is just about perfect. This doesn’t scale well for very large trees. Because 20 or 30-foot trees can get so wide at the base, they’ll need more lights. But this shouldn’t be a concern for most home decorators. Regardless of tree size, lights should typically be wound in a spiral pattern, with the rows 12 inches apart. This assumes normal sizing and spacing along the cord.
If you’re wrapping around posts or something similar, the lights should be more closely spaced. If they’re wide apart, you won’t see the candy cane effect you’re expecting. Instead, you’ll see a disjointed zig-zag of lights. Not only that, but for posts, you’re going to need some kinds of nails, tacks, or small hooks. The same goes for lighting up fences and other man-made installations.
Finally, for outdoor lights, you’ll need to make sure they’re plugged in safely. Ideally, you’ll want to plug into an outdoor outlet. However, in some situations, you might need to use an extension cord or outdoor waterproof power strip.
ELight Outdoor String Lights
ELight Outdoor String Lights are a 35-foot light string with 100 individual LED bulbs. The bulbs are normal-sized, but with a 360-degree design that distributes light in all directions. As a result, when they glow, they look larger than they are, particularly in a totally dark environment. This gives them a retro look, like old-school oversized incandescent bulbs. Unlike incandescents, though, they run nice and cool. You don’t have to worry about them burning inquisitive kids or lighting a dry tree on fire. They’re also waterproof. This means you can hang them outdoors without having any safety concerns.
Like most smart LEDs, the ELight set comes with an AC power adapter, along with an in-line LED controller. The in-line switch supports on/off functions, but you’ll need the app for more advanced controls. The kit also includes a six-foot power supply cord, and a six-foot extension cord. Everything but the power block is waterproof, so you can safely run connections outdoors. Keep in mind that the water-resistant connections have a screw-together design. If you try and force them together, they can become damaged, and might let water in. Just screw them together as you’d connect a hose or a pipe.
Each ELight bulb has a full set of RGB diodes. This allows them to display any color of the rainbow, or to cycle between colors. They can even be set to plain white if you prefer a more frosted look. To access these features, you’ll need to install the ELight smartphone app. It’s available for free on Android and iOS, and allows you to pair your phone with your lights. Once that’s done, you can choose between millions of individual colors, or 120 different color-chasing patterns. You can even adjust the brightness, as well as the speed of any patterns.
Twinkly RGB Multicolor LED String Lights
The Twinkly RGB Multicolor LED String Lights come in four different sizes. You can buy them in 100, 250, 400, or 600-light sizes, suitable for just about any task. We reviewed the 250-light version, which is 150 feet long. The length scales with the number of lights. So the 600-light version would be 360 feet long. The bulbs themselves are compact, with fine tips that look like ordinary modern incandescents. Throw them up in a Christmas tree or on your front bushes, and they won’t look out of place.
Along with the lights, the kit includes an AC charging block and an in-line control switch. Keep in mind, though, that the Twinkly kit is not water-resistant. It’s designed for indoor use only. It’s better suited for your large Christmas tree than for lighting up the front yard. Still, there are plenty of extra features that are very useful indoors.
For one thing, the Twinkly lights are compatible with home voice assistants. They can be controlled with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa using simple voice commands. There’s no need to use any manual controls if you don’t want to, once initial setup is complete. The app and voice controls allow you to adjust the brightness, the colors, and the pattern. You can also connect with multiple Twinkly light strings simultaneously. If you’ve got a large display and want everything synchronized, it’s easy to do.
The smartphone app offers even more features. You can set up your tree, then use your phone camera and the app to map every single bulb. This allows you to create custom visual displays regardless of how the string is configured. If you want even more advanced controls, you can connect with a PC or laptop and use Razer Chroma controls. This will allow you to control each and every individual bulb if you so desire.
DreamColor Outdoor String Lights
The DreamColor Outdoor String Lights are perhaps the most versatile of the bunch. At 16.4 feet long, they’re not suitable for very large applications. But for just about anything else, they have everything you need. The 50 LEDs have a traditional design, with caps that somewhat mute the brightness at the very tip. The brightness is right in line with newer incandescents, neither too harsh nor too soft.
The DreamColor lights’ small size offers a couple of advantages. For one thing, it doesn’t need a ton of voltage, so it’s USB-powered. This means you’ll have to keep your USB power adapter shielded. However, the rest of the light string is entirely waterproof. The size is also beneficial when it comes to portability. These lights are easy to carry up a ladder if you have to.
The 50 LED lights are fully addressable, which allows for some capabilities that most other lights don’t offer. You can create a number of color patterns, shifts, jumps, and other patterns. In terms of versatility, you’re looking at nearly as many options as you’ll get from the best fairy string lights.
There are three different ways to control the Twinkly lights. In addition to the in-line controller, you get a 40-key infrared remote. This is only good for line-of-sight control, though. For control over longer distance, you need a WiFi connection. When you install the app, you can make a number of adjustments. You can control brightness, colors, patterns, and all the usual settings. You can also set a daily timer so your lights will automatically turn on and off.
Finally, the DreamColor lights offer a music sync mode. In this mode, they’ll move in a pattern along with the beat, using a built-in microphone. This is useful for retail displays, holiday parties, and any other festive event.
So, which one of these Christmas tree LED sets is the best? Let’s recap what we’ve learned, and see when you might want to use each one. We started off by looking at the ELight Outdoor String Lights. These lights are 35 feet long, great for medium-sized applications. They can be used to decorate an entryway, trim a small tree, or light up a small room. They’re waterproof, so outdoor use is no concern, and the app options are fairly comprehensive. That said, the retro-style look might not be ideal for everybody. That’s just a matter of taste, and it depends what you’re looking for.
The Twinkly RGB Multicolor LED String Lights have a smaller, more contemporary look. The bulbs are more than bright enough, though. They’ll light up a whole room if given the opportunity. Not only that, but they can be ordered in multiple lengths. You can order everything from smaller, 100-light strings to ultra-long 600-light strings. This makes them a suitable fit for just about any indoor application, although they’re not waterproof. Perhaps the best feature, though, is the support for Razer Chroma software. Because Chroma is the industry standard for LEDs, the Twinkly lights are compatible with pro as well as home setups.
The DreamColor Outdoor String Lights are the smallest of the bunch, measuring only 16 feet long. However, they bring plenty of smart features to the table. For one thing, you get advanced app controls along with an infrared remote. For another thing, there’s the music sync mode, which is great for personal use as well as businesses. Not only that, but the LED bulbs themselves are attractive, assuming you prefer a more contemporary look.