After decorating the house and lawn for Christmas, why stop? Don’t let she-sheds, workshops and storage buildings sit sad and dark for the holidays.
Simple projects like this one might only require what is left over!
For a project like this, you’ll need about 50 feet of C9 cord and 50 C9 multicolor bulbs, and 50 roofline clips.
Because it’s so easy to tailor this project, rather than list specific products, here are the categories to browse.
C9 Glass bulbs. Traditional glass bulbs. Choose from transparent, painted, twinkle, or extra bright.
50-foot C9 Christmas Cords. Choose from green or white based on the color of flashing. This category features cords with standard SPT-1 insulation. Perfect for a standard Christmas installation.
Clips and hooks. Browse through all these clips to choose the best clip for your project. Consider bulb orientation, a need to hang other types of lights (like mini light strings or icicles), and color. These are commercial clips that professionals have been using for installations for years.
Traditional C9 cords can be cut to fit. Here are a few blog posts that answer our most common questions about Christmas installations that use traditional 18 AWG cord and bulbs.
Helpful Posts and Video
Watch this quick video showing how easy it is to install a gilbert plug.
Leaves are changing colors, pumpkin spice is in the air, it’s time to pull out and assess how last year’s Christmas decorations are holding up.
Most Christmas 3D graphic yard sculpture is lit with incandescent light strings with an approximate average lifespan of 3000 hours, so it pays to know how to replace the lights instead of purchasing new sculptures.
Here is a 5-minute video and a detailed written list below with tips to assist with replacing lights on yard sculptures so they can be used for a few more seasons.
Do not remove old lights until you are ready to replace them. This is not the time to tidy things up and "throw out the trash". Those light strings will be your installation guide and help you choose replacement strings.
Examine the old light strings. Measure distance between bulbs. Take notes about number of lights, number of strings. The more closely the current installation can be copied, the better. Build a shopping list for lights strings based on all of these variables. Check out different colors of bulbs and wire colors.
Measure the frame diameter. You can't assume or eyeball this measurement. It requires a couple of tools. Grab an adjustable wrench and ruler with 1/16" divisions or a caliper. Tighten down the wrench on the frame in several places and measure and record the width of the gap. This is your "frame size". This is also the size of the clip you'll need for this project. Sculpture clips fit a standard mini lights string on one side and your frame on the other (that's the measurement you just completed). Note, some LED light strings have bases that are the right size to use with this stule of clips but some are larger than standard size and may not work. We've listed all of our LED light strings that will work with our clips in the clip description. Measuring in several places is especially important on vintage or older frames that have been painted and are worn in places. Two clip sizes may be required.
Plan to purchase one sculpture clip for each bulb plus a few extra for good measure or the next project.After measuring and roughly counting the lights currently on the sculpture, put pen to paper and list all the availble lengths of lights that will work on your project. Keep in mind that light strings cannot be shortened so you may need to mix a short string with a longer one to combine into your desired length. Also, remember that not more than 500 bulbs can be run in the same circuit so plan for splitters accordingly. Don't forget matching extension cords and electrical tape that matches the wiring of the lights.
Find a wire cutter to remove the clips or wire ties that are currently attaching the original lights.
Set out electrical tape. Grab a pair of scissors. (Do not use anyone's fabric scissors. This is essential for domestic harmony.)
Queue up your favorite music or movie to play in the background while you work. Pick an adult beverage. (Iced tea is fine for now or a spirited alternative could make this process pretty adventurous.)
Tips while replacing the lights
Plug in all new light strings before installing to confirm there are no issues. Better to know before rather than after installation. Unplug after testing.Plug the new lights every half string or so to make sure a bulb hasn't become unseated during the installation process and to test your work. Sometimes issues with wiring harnessees aren't revealed until the lights are wiggled around a bit.
Start at the end with the male plug. Observe how the old light string is attached to the frame. Unclip a couple feet of lights. Snap clips onto your new light bulb bases and install them on the frame in the same way the oritinal lights were installed. Easy. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Did you end up with a "tail" at the end of a newly installed light string? Double it back on the frame until it's used up. the doubling of the lights should not be that obvious from the sidewalk.
Plug in the sculpture with all the light strings installed for one final test before moving it to the yard.
Consider wrapping male and female plug connections with electrical tape to make the connection weather-resistant and more securely connected together. Perform this after final test.
Stand back and admire your work with another glass of tea.
Tried this project? We’d love to see it.Share your photos! @christmaslightsource or #christmaslightsource on Facebook and Instagram.
Here is repaired Joseph and the rest of the nativity.
Shellie: Do you have a yard sculpture like this Joseph with burnt-out lights? Don’t throw it away. Replacing the lights is quick and easy. That’s the topic of today’s video. So, you’ve got a yard sculpture that you really love, but the lights are starting to go out. If your frame is standard diameter, using sculpture clips makes that process quick and easy. Here are a few tips. First, don’t remove the lights from the sculpture before you replace them. They’re going to be your guide for choosing what lights to purchase for replacement lights for your whole assembly.
So, what you’re going to want to do is visually inspect the lights on the frames. Take a note of how far apart the lights are. Then do a quick visual estimate of how many lights are actually on the frame. That’s going to let you know how many lights to order. You’ll also want to notice the orientation and the layout. Next, we need to measure your frame so you order the right sculpture clips.
You’ll need just a few pieces of equipment and about five minutes to do that well. This is a sculpture clip. How this works is that one size is the size of a standard mini-light base. And that way, you can just clip it onto your mini-lights. The other side is measured to fit your frame. So, in order to make the right purchase, you need to know what the size or diameter of your frame is. And that’s the size sculpture clip that you’ll order.
In order to measure your frame, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need is an adjustable wrench. So, just take that crescent wrench and pick a place on your frame that’s easy to get to. And tighten your wrench on the frame, and then gently take it off and then measure the distance in the gap. You see the distance here is 1/4 of an inch. So, we’ve measured our gap, and we note that the diameter of this frame is 1/4 of an inch.
If your sculpture is old and has a lot of paint on it, you might need to measure in more than one place. So, after you make that measurement, you’ll be ready to start counting your bulbs visually, getting a rough estimate so that you can order your lights and your sculpture clips. To build your shopping list, count for one sculpture clip per bulb. Then, with your list of lights and your sculpture clips, make an order, and be sure to get a variety of lengths of Christmas lights so that as you go, you can adjust measurements and distances based on your estimation.
First, look for the male plug. This is where you’re going to start. Let’s go ahead and take a look at that. Go for it, Dave. So, all he’s doing is unclipping the lights that are already there, just about a foot or two, a foot, 6 inches at a time. Then you just put the clip on the light. And since you just took it off, you know exactly how to put it right back on. So, you just go through one by one and repeat until you’re finished installing all of your new lights. Dave, what’s your favorite beverage when you’re doing this?
Dave: I would have to say a vodka soda.
Shellie: A vodka soda, a grapefruit vodka soda?
Shellie: Yes. But iced tea works really great as well. So, just keep on going until all of your lights are replaced. So, folks, that’s about how hard it is. Oh, wait, I’m not even in the frame. So, that’s about how hard it is. So, you can see that with the right equipment, this is an easy project. So, you can preserve and keep your yard sculpture.
So, we’re going to finish out Joseph and get him lit up. Now, if you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. Also, be sure to subscribe so you’ll get a notice for all of our videos that are coming up, especially now during the Christmas season. Anyway, I’m Shellie at “Christmas Light Source.”
The 25 and 50 foot cords in this configuration are run out from an extension cord in opposite directions (like a T). Since the 25 foot cord is 20 AWH and the 50-foot cord is 18 AWG, they shouldn't be run in series together.
Tried this project? We'd love to see it.Share your photos! @christmaslightsource or #christmaslightsource on Facebook and Instagram.
Originally published December 9, 2020 11:07 pm. Edited and re-released on November 7, 2022.
We developed our craft lights to work specifically for applications like this. Filling bottles with lights is fun. These projects are also fun to purchase at craft fairs – let someone else drill the hole at the base of the bottle.
The customer who made the lovely projects above had this to say:
These ten light strings give the perfect amount of light for my bottle projects. Especially like the longer lead length and long life of the bulbs.
Glass craft and mini lights strings give off heat during operation. Don’t pack them into containers and don’t cap the containers off. Heat buildup affects paint on the bulbs and shortens the lifespan of the strings.
Heat buildup also presents a hazard to surfaces.
For an intense look without the heat, consider choosing a set of lights that uses LED’s instead of filaments to generate light. Shop for those in our LED craft lights collection.
Common Christmas Lights Terminology and Vocabulary
This is a shape of LED lens that is about the shape of and slightly smaller than a pencil eraser. It has been referred to as “wide angle” and “conical” in the past since there is a cone shape molded into the lens to reflect out a maximum amount of light. This lens style appears to be the brightest of the LED mini light strings since it concentrates lights so well.
A measure of current. If electricity is compared to water, this specification would measure the rate of water through a hose. The more light strings run in series, the greater the current flow. That’s why running too many light sets in series will break or “blow” the fuse.
How much current a string of lights or bulb “pulls” or requires based on its electrical resistance. Important to keep track of so the max amperage rating of an electrical breaker or the light strings or blbs aren’t exceeded.
While bulbs in the US run on 110/120 volts, they also have a specified voltage drop. Use this specification when replacing glass mini light bulbs to make sure replacement bulbs match what they are replacing. Mismatched replacement bulbs will either put out very little light or burn bright and die.
Smallest of the cone shaped LED lenses. 6/8 of an inch in diameter.
Traditional-sized Christmas light bulbs. They have threaded bases and are manufactured to install in standard C7 or C9 Christmas light cords with E12 or E17 sockets respectively.
Another name for E12, the size of the socket or base of a C7 Christmas light bulb.
Lights tailored to installed in bottles and blocks commonly having only a single male plug.
Sets of lights shaped like traditional icicle lights. Instead of staggered lengths of “icicles” all of the legs are the same length – generally 5′ or longer. Available in glass and LED.
Light bulbs and strings are designed to respond linearly to changes in voltage. This means that they’ll dim when connected to a dimming switch. For bulbs, non-dimmable indicates that they won’t respond as expected to a dimming switch – they may be on then just off instead of smoothly ramping from on to off. Non-dimmable bulbs are also not suited to displays that rapidly flash on and off which will damage them almost immediately.
The portions of light strings forming vertical legs on icicle and curtain lights.
E12, E17, or E26
The measure of the size of light cord sockets. E12 = C7 = Candelabra, E17 = C9 = Intermediate, E26 = Medium. See this blog post for more discussion.
End to End
Indicates a light string has a male plug on one end and a female plug on the other, and the light sets can be connected one into another – i.e. “end to end.”
The flashing that is visually perceptible in LED lights that are not adequately rectified. The waveform of the AC electricity causes the LEDs to turn off and on fast but not so fast that your eye and sometimes your stomach isn’t bothered by it.
Full Wave Rectified
Electrical devices that have circuits that smooth and filter an AC input electricity waveform to prevent noticeable flicker.
G12, G30, G40, G50
Sizes of round “globe” bulbs. Available in both glass and LED. The number is the diameter of the bulb in millimeters.
Head Wire/Lead Wire
Length of wire between the male or female plug and the first or last bulb, respectively. This length can range from identical to the distance between bulbs to much longer based on the light string’s intended application.
Traditional retro Christmas lights that are manufactured with a single central cord that multiple “legs” of lights hang from. Installed along a roofline they are evocative of real icicles.
Specification indicating where a light string, bulb, or accessory can be used.
Another name for a C9 or E17 socket size. Can also refer to the size of the base of the bulb.
A small device that produces lights with semiconductors instead of heating a metallic filament like incandescent bulbs.
LED Christmas Lights
Light strings and bulbs that produce lights with semiconductors instead of filament. Sensitive to impulses on electrical lines, they should always be plugged into a surge protector. Using a fraction of the electricity of their glass counterparts, LED Christmas lights have surged in popularity over the last 15 years and dominate the Christimas lighting marketplace.
The measure of perceived brightness at 36 inches of a bulb or light string.
An approximate number of hours a Christmas light string would operate in perfect conditions. Used to compare different brands of bulbs or cords but not intended to be a warranty or promise. (Like MPG is for cars.)
A small LED lens shape that is textured to look like an actual small frozen icicle.
Clips that contain rare earth magnets designed to fit onto the bottom of traditional C7 or C9 Christmas light cord sockets. Use them to install lights on metal surfaces. Always test with a household magnet before ordering.
The maximum number of light strings that can be connected in series. Exceeding this number creates and electrical hazard, blows fuses, and should be avoided during installation.
Traditional glass or LED light strings are used commonly to light Christmas trees. Uses for them have extended outside the Christmas season to include parties and events. Wired in series, this type of light string cannot be cut or modified and retain its electrical integrity.
Hand-tied light strings with bulbs spaced evenly in squares forming large rectangles of lights that are ideal for decorating shrubbery. Available in glass and LED.
Common plated finish on C7 and C9 Christmas bulb bases. Usually plated over brass. The finish of similar bulbs – for example, pure and warm white bulbs look the same when not powered on – is sometimes varied for easy sorting.
Refers to how traditional 18 AWG Christmas light cords are electrically manufactured with constant voltage allowing them to be cut to fit.
Strings of lights usually employ a 2 or 3-wire harness and are electrically manufactured to be constant current. Cannot be cut to fit.
SPT-1 or SPT-2
Specification related to the thickness of insulation on 18 AWG traditional Christmas light cords. SPT-2 is slightly thicker than SPT-1 and intended for use in slightly more rugged conditions. Both types of cord are rated at 10 amps.
Male plugs are manufactured with built-in receptacles that allow users to plug them into each other. These are the types of plugs often seen installed on Christmas trees. Each set is plugged into several others at the tree’s trunk and makes a big stack.
Length of wire between the last bulb and the female plug.
Safety rating awarded by the Underwriter’s Laboratory. Can only be awarded to Christmast light sets that are completely finished at the time of sale so is not applied to bulbs and cords that are sold separately. A white tag with the UL logo is installed on UL rated products. Applies to any type of electrical device.
If electrical voltage were compared to water it is equivalent to water pressure.
An electrical measure. If you think of electricity as water (see amps and volts above) then wattage is analogous to the force of the water running through the pipes. Watts = Voltage x Current
If you increase either the voltage or the current, the power of the water coming out of the hose increases. It’s like that with electrical current. Watts is a measure of power.
Measures the thickness of solid or stranded wire. Like ammunition, the smaller the gauge the larger the wire. For example, 22 AWG wiring is smaller than 16 AWG wire.
There are 3 standard spacings for mini lights. Choosing the best spacing is essential for a polished project and can be tricky. We hope a quick visual will help you decide.
Here are those three spacings:
A word about lengths of Christmas light strings: Christmas lights will vary in how tightly they are twisted during manufacture. Light sets can also become “untwisted” during unpacking and installation. As a result, total length and total lit length measurements can vary plus or minus a couple of inches.
Most “concentrated” highest ratio of lights to wiring.
50 lights: 10′ 2.5″
100 lights: 20′ 7.5″
Small Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands
Intense wrapping of larger trees
Replacing or installing lights on wireframes (yard art)
Trees and columns with diameters less than 6 inches around
Most commonly used spacing of Christmas lights. When in doubt, reach for this set.
50 lights: 16.3′
100 lights: 33′
Our go-to spacing for most interior decor projects
A great choice for a 7-9 foot Christmas trees
Most tree trunks and columns are wrapped well
Most city and commercial projects
Our choice for larger projects. Longer light strings per number of bulbs translate to more installation length per dollar.
50 lights: 25′
100 lights: 50′
Commercial installations where the distance covered is more important than the concentration of bulbs
Wrapping magnificent older tree trunks
Keep an eye on the maximum number of light sets that can be run in series. Glass strings can be run with a maximum of 500 bulbs per circuit run end to end. For example, no more than 10 strings of 50’s in a row.
Order 10-15% more than a project’s measured length to account for variations in length, swag (how much the lights hang between installation points), and wrap (how many times and how closely a branch or trunk is wrapped).
Six sets of 8-foot tall curtain lights hung behind sheer curtains added warm romantic lighting to a lovely young couple’s fairy tale wedding.
Use this styling to create a wall of light or behind the wedding party dinner table or entryway. These curtains are manufactured with glass incandescent bulbs. During installation, run only 3 sets in series from a splitter or extension cord.
After the reception, the bride and groom can repurpose the curtains to light their outdoor spaces.
Questions about curtain lights? See these videos for more helpful tips.
The icicle lights came quickly and worked fine. They look good around the hot tub.
We agree. They do look good.
These icicle lights look great because the longest drop measures 24 inches which is much longer than many icicle lights on the market.
The lights are easy to install using your choice of clips, nails, or wire ties. Quik Klips are one of our favorite clip solutions. They are shipped with a small nail minimizing permanent damage to the pergola.
I originally purchased these led lights to decorate for my daughters wedding in November. They have since been included in a Halloween display. I now own 22 strands and will more than likely pick up more for the Holidays. Love the product.
We use our lights all year long so we love seeing when our customers catch the fever. What a fantastic project a few twinkle light strings, tent stakes, and a handful of wire ties can become for the Holloween.
Glass blocks aren’t just for 80’s decor. Available at local hobby and craft shops, they are now made with one side open so drilling is no longer required.
If you have a glass block in your crafting stash, add a set of craft lights and patriotic gel clings for a project that looks great on a counter. We like to use these seasonal projects to light our first-floor half-bath counter.
Window cling – find at a craft, dollar, or big box store
We like to use string lights with white wire. The set featured in this project has 35 lights spaced 3 inches apart. Made with a 36-inch lead wire between the plug and the first light, an extension cord is not required. All of the lights with 35 bulbs and a single plug are here.
The lights and gel cling sheet. The gels are delicate and require gentle handling. (We figured that out with that large red flag section!). Orient the block so that the opening is “on the bottom”.
Add the lights to the block. Tuck them in and take advantage of the gap at the base of the block to hide the wiring.
If we don’t count drive time, this project should only take about 5 minutes. That leaves plenty of time to plan a 4th of July barbeque.
We created this project twice. Here is the second version ready to illuminate our visitors. Happy Independence Day.
In mid-May, our pergola was a sad sight. So faded and needing cleaning, we didn’t enjoy our backyard nearly as much as we should. We saved money by restoring our tired pergola and outdoor furniture with power washing and staining.
Installing string and curtain lights made what was once mildly unwelcoming into a magical space.
Buying a new pergola would have been the easy way out of this problem. But we have teen boys. We wanted to show them that just a handful of hours and a gallon of stain could solve our problem without burdening our household budget.
I hope they remember this gentle lesson when they have homes.
Sorry, we don’t have many before photos. We didn’t realize when we started this project how much we would like it and how pleased we’d be with the results.
David power washed the pergola and the Sunbrella fabric covering. I had convinced myself we’d have to buy a new canvas awning, but Dave was hopeful. After taking down the watery-leaf-covered canvas and power washing it, he put it in the washing machine.
I was skeptical.
After a wash and drying outside, the awning looked fantastic and shrank a little. The process restored its original snap.
We waited overnight for the wood to thoroughly dry. Then Dave and the boys applied stain.
We power washed the Sunbrella cushions and the metal furniture bases. They went from dull to clean and bright-as-new.
While the cushions were draining and drying out, I ordered a fresh set of outdoor furniture covers to keep them looking great. (Amazon basics. Unexpectedly good quality for under $100 total.)
Tips and things we might have done differently
Lift the pergola and get that tarp under the corner column. Especially when teens are helping, enough said.
Stain a small section to test the stain if you don’t care for stain surprises.
Here is a photo of the stain and awning. (The cushions covers arrived by 8 am.)
The glass mini lights we used to light the ceiling are shown in the photo below. We used ten strings of 100 clear bulbs on green wire in 2 circuits/runs.
Notice that we gently looped the light strings around the ends of the cross boards instead of driving nails into the wood.
We draped the curtain lights as well. So far, they’ve stayed in place. If we expect a wind storm in the future, we’ll consider uninstalling and storing.
Curtain Light Unpacking Tips
These lights in the image below are pure white LED curtain lights. These photos show what to expect when unpacking curtain lights. Super-tightly wrapped at the factory; we like to hang then unroll them while slightly pulling on the “icicles” to straighten them. For parties, plan to install the curtain lights a couple of days in advance to allow for natural straightening of the wire.
Warm white LED Curtains are shown below.
This images shows the incandescent curtains and strings we installed for our final installation.
A few days later, we added a fern to that big empty clay pot. We added a drip line to keep it watered.
We also installed a misting system under the outer edge of the pergola. Our next project is control the amount of water running into the system. It currently works as an outdoor shower.
The deluge is a little awkward when trying to eat hummus and pretzel crisps with a glass of Prosecco.
I hope this project has been an inspiration to look at outdoor spaces with new eyes to see what power washing and stain might refresh. A Christmas stash might already contain lights that can be repurposed for summer parties. If the project requires light purchases, measure carefully. Add 10% to estimates to account for swag and irregularities.
We used glass (incandescent) light strings and curtain lights (8-feet long) in our final install. Remember that a maximum of 500 bulbs of glass mini lights can be run in series. That’s five sets of 100 bulbs or ten sets of 50-light strings. Connecting more than these limits pose a fire hazard and will blow most fuses. If the lights and any other appliances plugged in add up to more than 1000 watts, use additional extension cords to divide the project between separate standard breakers.
Questions about your electrical setup? Please consult with a master electrician.
This project doesn’t require a ladder or special materials.
With about 40 minutes of time and under $125 for bulbs and a cord, a backyard can go from “You have a lovely backyard” to “Wow, what’s the special occasion?” or better yet, “Whoo whoo, this looks like a party!”
The cord might be in your Christmas lights display storage.
After installing all the clips, install the cord into the clips.
Add bulbs. A quick counter-clockwise turn of the bulb helps avoid cross-threading.
Now, drink another can of sparkling water with grapefruit flavor. (That was our beverage of choice for this project.)
Here is a time-lapse video of the project with more photos to follow.
We loved the results and we know you will in your space as well. Please share photos of your backyard lighting projects in the comments below.
We used the same bulbs to make sure all the lights were on in this festive sign. Check and check. One backyard ready for a party or a few friends sharing a bottle (or two) of sparkling French wine on a Tuesday.
Originally published July 3, 2020. Revised May 31, 2022
Last Saturday, December 4th, a producer from the Weather Channel called to ask me to talk about recycling Christmas lights – so exciting.
It was a wonderful opportunity to reach out to let people know that lights don’t have to end up in a landfill.
It just so happens that I was 5 hours from home helping sort out family issues and staying with a cousin who graciously let me set up in her dining room in front of her festive Christmas tree. Fortunately, I had packed an emergency turtleneck and a large barrel curling iron was easy to find on short notice!
My cousin, Karen (the best kind of Karen), took these photos and show exactly how lovely and homey her place is decorated for the Holidays.
Interview High Points
These were the main points covered.
When Christmas lights are ready to retire—they don’t come on, half the bulbs are out and changing the fuse doesn’t help, the wiring is showing signs of wear—they can be recycled. Check local news for news of a hardware store or similar hosting a Christmas lights recycling drive. Call local metal recyclers to see if they accept lights.
Recyclers reclaim as much material as possible—glass, copper, plastic. The most important and valuable component is copper which has doubled in recycling value over the last 12 month. The materials are reintroduced into the supply chain instead of languishing in a landfill.
If lights have never been used and are still in their original packaging, consider donating them to a local charity shop.
If there are no local options, pack them up in the smallest possible box or mailing bag with no extra filler and send them to us. We’ll combine them with other lights and take them to a local recycler. Every cent redeemed is used to purchase educational toys and books and are donated to Toys for Tots turning one person’s trash into happy Christmas morning smiles.
The address to send lights to is:
Christmas Light Source Recycling Program 4313 Elmwood Dr. Benbrook, TX 76116 866-926-4877
Here are a few photos of Dave and his red truck at the recycling facility. Shipping boxes are submitted to a city recycling program.
Hi, great question. Unfortunately, the answer is no for a couple of reasons.
Mini lights should really not be cut because they are wired in series and their bulbs are rated for a specific current draw. The better choice is to find a string of lights whose length most closely matches your project requirements, or tuck the oveage out of site under a branch or eave.
Gilbert plugs are made to punch through the thick SPT-1 or SPT-2 insulation on 18 AWG Christmas light cord.
Longer answer: We used to be able to answer this question with a resounding yes when the question was about the style of bulbs that come as threaded bulbs and threaded sockets of the style that folks have been using to install lights around their rooflines for decades.
Now, there are a few non-standard types in town that we have been hearing about. We can no longer answer with an automatic “yes”.
Some of the big-box stores have been selling cheap light strings that are labeled as “C7” or “C9” trying to pass them off as traditional, standard Christmas lights.
Apparently, these pretenders that cost about $7 for the cord and bulbs have slightly smaller, non-standard sockets than what has been historically called C7 or C9.
But how will I know? Look at the specified size of the sockets.
There should be some sort of specification on the box they came in stating the rating or size of the bulbs the cords are compatible with. C7 bulbs in cords that have E12 bases and C9 bulbs work in E17. (As a note, that 12 and 17 mm in diameter!)
This is a photo of those two socket styles next to each other. The socket on the right is C7. A nightlight bulb will fit this socket. The socket on the left is made for C9 bulbs and is E17. E17 is also known as Intermediate.
There are also bulb and cord sets that have bulbs with push-in bases. These would also be problematic to replace with traditional C7 or C9 bulbs.
If you have a few sets of these non-standard C7 or C9 light cords and are looking for bulb replacements, the best place to start is at the store where they were purchased to see if they are stocking replacement bulbs or contact the light string’s manufacturer.
To be sure that C7 or C9 replacement bulbs will fit a cord in the future, purchase a standard, traditional, commercial-quality 18 AWG Christmas light cord of the style that has been used for years. (And for 25-foot cords, they might be made with 20 AWG wire.) They would naturally be wired in parallel. That means that if a bulb is removed the rest stay lit since the bulbs are wired at constant voltage instead of constant current. (Constant current light strings are usually made with 2 or 3-wire harnesses like traditional smaller Christmas tree light strings. If you remove a bulb, all the bulbs in that part of the string’s circuit go dark.)
Short and Long answer: If your 25-foot cord is made from a stranded heavier duty “lamp cord” that is wired in parallel, then yes, you can cut the cord to fit your project. This type of cord is shown in the image below.
Parallel means that if one bulb is unscrewed from its socket the rest of the bulbs stay on.
One thing to keep in mind though is that Gilbert plugs are made to work with 18 AWG wire with either SPT-1 or SPT-2 insulation. While the SPT-1 gilbert plugs might JUST work with a 25-foot cord, a standard lampstyle cord that requires the ends of the wire be separated, split and installed on terminal screws might be required if you wanted to install a male plug on the wire that is cut off.
Does that make sense? I hope so. In simpler words, gilbert plugs probably won’t work if you mean to make separate cords out of the pieces of the 25-foot cord and you’ll need to choose a different style. An electrician can help with that.
Here is a look at that style of cord:
You might find the information in these blogs useful.
And here is one of our favorite Get this Look houses that use wire that can be cut to fit.
Short answer: No, they won’t fit into the same cord because they have different-sized bases.
This is a great question, especially since we’ve had a larger number of first-time Christmas lights customers this season.
We have heard this question in this form several times over the last couple of months along with the question, “Can I have a C9 bulb with a C7 base?” as well.
This blog will address both.
This is a photo of a C7 and C9 glass bulb.
Note that the principles discussed in the post apply equally to standard, commercial C7 and C9 bulbs with threaded bases. We say that because some manufacturers are producing bulbs they are calling C7 and C9 that have push-in bases, and non-standard sized bases that fit into proprietary rather than classic cords.
Note the difference in not just the size of the bulbs but the bases as well.
In the Christmas lights industry. As of this moment, “always”, is the correct word to choose regarding standard, traditional, commercial bulbs.
C7 Bulbs will always have E12 bases. These are also known as candelabra and have the same sized base as a night light bulb.
C9 Bulbs will always have E17 bases. These are also known as intermediate.
The cords are made with either sockets to fit C7 bulbs or C9 bulbs. The different sockets sizes are not mixed on the cords so C7 and C9 bulbs cannot be used on the same strings.
Here are more photos of the bulbs and cords involved.
As an additional note, C7 and C9 bulbs that are any of the following combinations can be mixed as long as they have the same appropriate base size: LED or glass, non-twinkle or twinkle, different shapes like round.
We hope this helps you as you choose between C7 and C9 on your Christmas project design journey.
Shellie: One question that we get, what do you do with the cut end of a cord when you’ve shortened it for Christmas lights? Note, this is a lamb-style cord, and so, it’s not…they’re wired in parallel, so that means you can cut them. One technique is just to go ahead and get a couple of pieces of electrical tape. Here’s my role of electrical tape. That’s pretty exciting. And you just have a pair of scissors because if you don’t, it’ll just like stretch and pull, and it’ll give you a headache. And so, then, if I can look on the other side of this camera, I would just go ahead and take a little piece, and put it like this, and then, take a slightly longer piece like this. And, you know, there are many ways to do this properly, but this is a nice one.
What do you think Dave?
Dave: I think that would work.
Shellie: So, voilà, that’s one way of terminating a cut wire. Okay. So, another way to terminate the end of your cord is to use a product called liquid electrical tape. You can get this at your local hardware store, and you just take the end, and look around your camera, and take this and it’s really gooey and you just dab, dab, dab. Note, the cord is currently not plugged in. I’m not doing this on a hot cord, and you just go dab, dab. Is this right Dave?
Dave: That’s perfect.
Shellie: I was just wondering if we were in agreement there. And so, voilà, then, the end is officially terminated. So, you’ve covered up those copper end wires.
Dave: I personally would do…after it dries would do another coat.
Shellie: And then, you’d let it dry, and it’d be ready for installation. A third optional way is to use a female plug and install it on the end of your cord. So, Dave, did we cover the major ways?
Shellie: There probably are many other ways that electricians will terminate a Christmas light cord, but these are the ones we hear about and suggest the most. Thank you so much for stopping to watch our video. We are Shellie and Dave at Christmas Light Source.
We’ve all seen tree trunks wrapped for Christmas, for weddings, and events. They are truly glorious. LED light strings with specifications allowing 100’s of feet of light to be run on a single outlet has revolutionized the density and number of lights that can be installed.
But how many light strings will I really need?
We have tried to create a formula, called in programmers, used graduate-level mathematic skills. Ultimately, we found that this question can be best answered with a piece of rope, a measuring tape, and a tree. As an alternative, use a string of lights that you have handy.
The reason, we’re going old school on this approximation is taste and style. Qualities that no super-computer can define.
Some folks choose to wrap tight. Some wrap loosely.
Only you know what kind of wrapper you are.
Quick way to calculate how many feet of lights needed to wrap a tree trunk
Here is our setup:
We are using a tree that has roughly an 18-inch diameter. We won’t need to use that number for any calculations but thought it might be good for reference. It is a pretty reasonably sized sample tree. Not too small. Not too big.
Step 1. Mark off 12 inches on the tree trunk in question with the painters tape. (Chalk would be equally useful.)
Step 2. Make a mark on the tape with the sharpie at the same places on the top and bottom tape. David thought this was unnecessary but I think it’s nice to easily see the beginning and end of the spiral.
Step 3. Use the cord to wrap the tree with the rope in the same way you’d wrap a set of lights adjusting the spiral to reflect how much light you want to see on the tree.
This wrapping resulted in 6 inches of distance between the spirals. This spacing is a good choice for larger trees.
Step 4. After winding the cord at a 6 inch spiral between the tape spaced 12 inches apart, we marked the cord with tape and measured the total length of cord used.
The length of the cord for a 6-inch spaced spiral is 11 feet!
We decided to wrap the tree again but spaced the spirals 4 inches apart. This distance is commonly used in commercial applicaitons where intense lighting is the goal.
Here is what that looked like:
We measured again. The length of the cord this time was 23 feet.
Once the distance required to light a foot of the tree trunk is measured, just multiply that number in feet by the height of the tree trunk.
In our examples, let’s see how many feet of lights are needed to light 10 feet of tree trunk.
For roughly 6 inches between spirals
11 feet of lights x 10 feet of tree = 110 feet of lights which is 6 – 7 strings of LED lights spaced 4 inches apart
This installation can be lit with either glass or LED as long as any circuit does not exceed 210 watts.
For roughly 4 inches between spirals
28 feet of lights x 10 feet of tree = 280 feet of lights which is about 17 strings of LED lights
This installation could be glass with a splitter installed after the first 10 sets with 10 sets running in series and 7 sets running in series from the other side of the splitter. Seventeen LED strings could be run in series without splitters.
Guidelines for choosing lights
Choose the right spacing based on size of tree, desired look, available power, and budget.
Common spacing for glass mini lights strings are 2.5, 4, and 6 inches. LED Mini lights are spaced 4 and 6 inches apart.
Glass mini lights cannot be run more than 500 bulbs in series before a splitter is instroduced into the installation
LED light strings can be connected 100’s of feet in series. Check the specification of the light strings for maximum number of strings that can be installed end to end.
Use the total length of the light strings including the “head” and “tail” which is the measure of wire between the plug and first bulb.
Add 10% or at least an extra string of lights to projects to account for irregularities in the tree trunk.
The greater the distance between bulbs, the more economical the installation. More wire per light, is a good choice for larger trees. A smaller distance between bulbs can be a good choice for smaller tree trunks on smaller trees.
Ultimately, choice will be determined by:
Size of trees and trunks
We’ve put this post together pretty quickly at the height of the Christmas season. We’ve made it simple and hope it is a good place to start.
More tips coming soon!
Look for more photos to come showing trees wrapped with different styles of lights, different bulbs spacings, and different trees.
While we can’t define how many lights you’ll need exactly with a computer program, the number can be tailored to every tree and every taste.
Well, I know this looks like a hot mess, but I’ve put these lights up here to really show you the answer to a question we hear a lot of. I’ve got two different kinds of LED multi-light sets out here. So, the first one I’m gonna show you is this one. So, this set is a C9, actually comes in two pieces.
There’s a C9, 18-gauge cord, and we’ve installed multicolor C9 bulbs in it. And you’ll see, like, this is a traditional C9 bulb shape and it has an E17 base that goes into an E17 socket. And so that’s one style of Christmas lights. And we call these bulbs and cords because that would kinda make sense because, you know, you have, like, a bulb and a cord. So, let’s look at what else I have.
So, over here on the right, I have what is called a Christmas light string. That’s what we’ve decided to call it. And it actually has a three-wire wiring harness. And the great thing about the engineering with this light set is that you can run hundreds of feet of these together in series on a single outlet. Now, this cord and bulb combination, you can’t run more than 250 feet of 18-gauge wire because that is the maximum light line specification.
So, it doesn’t actually matter if you have LED bulbs or glass bulbs. You can’t go more than 250 feet. So, for some projects, that’s perfect. But for major projects, like in cities where you’re wrapping trees or you have just… We’ve seen these on 60, 80, 100-foot trees, this is a great solution. I’ll turn out the light, so you can kind of get an idea better, there we go, of what these look like because we find that LED lights always look brighter after dark. And so, there we go. There’s some blue and a green.
And these bulbs cannot be replaced. In order to be moisture, water-resistant, you certainly wouldn’t wanna put them in the mud or anything like that. These are made to where the base and the bulb don’t separate. Now, we know there are some LED light strings on the market where the bulbs are replaceable, but what we’ve found is that the LED lights are so sensitive to corrosion and the change in resistance, and they seem to be more susceptible to rust that we’ve made the choice to carry only lights that have non-removable, non-replaceable bulbs. And also, these bulbs, these light strings rather, they’ll have a rectifier which is going to smooth the waveform and reduce as much flicker as possible. And this is located at the beginning and the middle of the string.
So, you have light strings as a choice and you have bulbs and cords as a choice. So, hopefully, this helps you as you’re planning your Christmas display. Let us know if you have any questions. And I’m Shellie at Christmas Light Source.
I’ve assembled this mess of Christmas lights to answer a simple question, can Christmas lights be cut? Other forms of the question are, can glass mini lights be cut, and can LED light strings be cut? These are the types of strings that are really in question.
You can see that this is a traditional glass mini light string with a wiring harness where the wires come out of the base of the bulb, and this is an LED set where the wires also come out of the base of the bulb. This means that these strings are wired serially. So, the short answer is no. Serially wired Christmas tree lights cannot and should not be cut and reassembled to change the number of bulbs, the order of the colors, or modified in this way at all. The results, if you do take out some of the bulbs, or reorder them, or solder them, that’s going to change their electrical characteristics. It’s going to change the amount of current running through the lights. Cutting the lights will void the warranty no matter who you buy them from and can possibly create an electrical hazard.
Now, for those of you, and you know who you are, who are arguing in your head with me right now. You can cut these lights, strip the wires, and solder them back together. You might be able to get away with that on the glass bulbs, but these are ultra-low current LED light strings and will damage the lights where they might not even come on again, or their lifespan will be significantly reduced. Because we know from basic electricity 101, from Ohms law, that if you adjust the resistance of any string of lights, it will change the current running through them, and that’s the issue.
So, if you need to cut a light string to fit a project, the only type of light string that can be cut to fit is a parallel commercial traditional C7 or C9 18 gauge Christmas light cord. You see, it’s the kind where you could install your own bulbs, and you know that when they’re plugged in if you pull one bulb out, the rest will stay lit.
So, thank you for all your questions, and please keep them coming. I’m Shellie, at Christmas Light Source.
This is a string of red 12-volt DC lights on green wire, and all you do is plug them into an accessory plug on your car, camper, boat, or golf cart. We love them on wreaths installed on the front or back of cars at Christmas and Valentine’s. I mean, why should December have all the fun? February needs some love.
Here are the specifications for these lights. Each set has a 10-foot section of red LED lights spaced 6 inches apart, and then, there’s a separate 15-foot extension wire here, as so, that plugs into that accessory plug and then has a coaxial connector on the other end to connect into the lights.
After you connect that first section of lights to the adapter or extension cord, you can string up to 30 of these in series. Remember that the LEDs are designed as a single unit to resist corrosion and cannot be removed or replaced. If one bulb should go out, the others will stay lit.
The 22 gauge green wiring blends in nicely with natural and artificial greenery. Red is nicely complimented with gold or silver ornaments. These lights are rated for indoor and outdoor use.
See the specification table located on this product for more details. We’d love to see how you use these lights, so please remember to tag us on your photos on Instagram and Facebook. If you have any questions, please contact us via our contact page at Christmas Light Source. Have a Merry Christmas and a brighter February. I’m Shellie at Christmas Light Source.
This is a multicolor on white wire, 12-volt DC Christmas light set. It comes in two parts, this light section, that’s one part. And then. the other part is this 22-gauge-15-foot extension section. It has a plug on the end that plugs into a standard accessory plug. Here are the specifications for these light strings.
The light section has 20 multicolor LED bulbs spaced 6 inches apart. Now that’s 9.5 feet of lit length per section, and it has male and female coaxial end plugs. The colors are red, green, blue, yellow, and orange.
Note that the LEDs are designed as a single unit to resist corrosion and cannot be removed or replaced. If one bulb should go out, the others will stay lit, and they’re unbreakable. The wiring is 22-gauge, and up to 30 light sections can be connected to a single adapter cord. These lights are rated for indoor and outdoor use.
We’ve seen these lights used on cars, RVs, golf carts, wreaths on grilles, and luggage racks. We’d love to see how you use these lights. Please leave a photo review and show off your projects, and remember to tag us on your Christmas light photos on Instagram and Facebook.
I’m Shellie, thank you for shopping at Christmas Light Source.
This is a set of warm white, 12-volt DC Christmas lights on green wire. The set is made in two parts. A section of lights and a separate 15-foot cord extension wire that has an accessory plug on one end and a coaxial connector on the other. Here are the specifications.
The light section has 20 warm white LED bulbs spaced 6 inches apart. That’s 9.5 feet of lit length and has male and female coaxial end plugs. Warm white is a modern LED interpretation of the warm yellow glow of glass, incandescent Christmas light strings. While not an exact match, they are neutral to warm and will blend with traditional lights, if they are mixed in your project.
They do not mix well with pure white LED sets. Note that the LED light sets, these little lights, are designed as a single unit to resist corrosion and cannot be removed or replaced. If one bulb should go out, the others will stay lit.
The wiring is a hefty 22 gauge, and up to 30 of the light sections can be connected end to end and connected to a single adapter cord.
These lights are rated for indoor and outdoor use. Thank you for shopping at Christmas Light Source, and Merry Christmas.
A quick checklist for putting together a complete Christmas lights order.
We hear this question all year.
With an unlimited way to combine Christmas lights into a customized, personalized display – large or small – it helps to ask a few questions before completing an order.
We’ve organized questions to ask by product lines.
C7 and C9 bulbs and cords.
The style that are separately purchased and shown in this category.
Do I need gilbert/vampire plugs? Plugs are required at all the places where 18 AWG cords will be cut and plugged into an outlet or extension cord. Match the color of plug and its SPT-1 or SPT-2 rating. The SPT-1 or 2 rating is related to the thickness of the insulation.
While the color of the plug isn’t electrically critical, the plugs won’t work if they insulation ratings don’t match the wire.
We suggest ordering a few extra plugs “just in case”.
Why? Waiting on or shopping for plugs will delay Christmas lights installation and delay a flip the switch moment.
Do all my cords and plugs match insulation ratings?
Confirm that SPT-1 or SPT-2 ratings match for cords and bulbs.
Why? SPT-1 plugs will not work with SPT-2 cords and vice versa.
This is the number one reason we pull orders from the shipping queue in order to contact the customer to confirm their plug choice.
Do the bulb base and cord socket sizes match?
Check the socket size of the cords and the base size of the bulbs to make sure they are the same. As an example, if a project uses C7 bulbs (E12 bases) then cords will have to be C7 cords with E12 bases. To make this easy, we just call cords with E12 sockets C7 cords. Same for C9.
Why? No one likes 10 boxes of C7 bulbs and 250 feet of C9 cord.
Do I have enough length of cord or string lights?
Consider adding 10-15% extra length to an estimated length of lights required for a project to compensate for swag or drop in the installation especially when lighting across spaces.
Adding an extra few strings also allows for differences in how spirals are wound on columns and trees.
Customers have been known to want more lights than they thought they did. It happens.
Why? Ordering a little extra footage of lights makes allowance for variations in installation and changes in design during installation. Ten feet of unlit roofline after an afternoon of an installation, because there was a slight underestimation, is not an ideal scenario.
Do I need installation hardware?
Commercial clips used to install lights along rooflines can be hard to find locally. Save time and choose the right Christmas light clip for the project. A clip for every socket or bulb is required.
Did I order the correct wire color?
The second reason we have to pull an order from the shipping queue and reach out to customers. During the busiest times of year, we try to pull orders with this type of discrepency but we may miss an errant string of lights.
Scan the cart to make sure all the product titles contain the correct wire colors.
Why? Everyone wants all their lights to work in projects according to design.
Short answer: Ocean saltwater breezes combined with sun and high temperatures are hard on Christmas lights and light strings. Installation on or near a beach will shorten their lifespan.
We love nothing better than beaches, warm evenings, and a string of lights. They make a perfect recipe for good times with friends and family.
It is also a fact that saltwater in the air is hard on lights. Really hard on lights.
Anyone living near a beach can tell the stories of doorknobs that require yearly replacement, and constant painting and wood repair. Rust on anything metallic quickly develops and requires wire-brushing and anti-rust paint. It’s the price that’s paid for hearing the sound of ocean waves first thing in the morning.
Wear on lights will show up in the following ways:
Sockets and bulb bases will rust and corrode.
Insulation on cords will show wear more quickly than when installed inland.
What can I do if I am installing lights near a salty body of water?
Have realistic expectations about how long the lights will last and have extra cords, clips, and bulbs on hand to install replacements as required.
For larger bulbs that are installed into separately purchased cords, consider using a thin layer of a product called “bulb grease” on bulbs and sockets. While it doesn’t remove or remedy the issue, it may delay the time rust and corrosion will appear on light strings.
Bulb grease is available at most local auto parts stores. It is designed for use on boats and cars.
Purchasing separate bulbs and cords can make it easier to replace either bulb or cords as they are affected by the environment. Smaller mini lights strings will more than likely have to be replaced in their entirety.
So, enjoy lights installed near the beach but know that like everything else in that location, you’ll need to be prepared for maintenance and repair.
We love to hear this kind of customer feedback. And we’ll think about expanding this product line!
Used this lights on the outside of a company vehicle for a socially distanced Christmas event. They lit up great, and I’m very grateful to have found 12v accessory plug string lights. They’re hard to come by! One of the connectors fell loose once during my drive, but other than that, worked perfect and were nice and bright. Would LOVE more colors so we can continue to do things like this. Trying to find pink, red, purple, on white wire for Valentine’s day, can’t seem to find them anywhere! Would love a color expansion! 🙂
Marissa in Bowling Green
This project is based on an order that includes 15 sets of 12-volt LED string lights. When calculating how many strings will be required, keep in mind that each set of lights is constructed with 9.5 feet of lit length. Each set ships with a light string plus a 15-foot power adapter cord.