We often entertain on our lanai and, until recently, relied on candles to illuminate the table when the sun went down. The problem was that when trades blew, the candles went out. It was time to invest a better solution: outdoor string lights. If you are searching for lights for your space, consider some of these things first.

What kinds of bulbs do you want? Incandescents give off a nice, soft glow and come in a wide variety of colors and wattage. They are also often less expensive than some other varieties. However, incandescents use more power than other lights, and they can sometimes pose a fire hazard because of the heat they emit. These are best used in areas that only need to be lit periodically.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), on the other hand, are often touted for their energy efficiency. These lights will last far longer than incandescents and if one bulb goes out, you will only need to replace that individual bulb. (With an incandescent, you would need to replace the entire strand.) LEDs also come in waterproof models great for the outdoors. They can be used for much longer periods of time than incandescents. The downside: The upfront cost. LEDs tend to be much more expensive than incandescents. They also do not give off as soft a glow.



What purpose do you want the lights to serve? In my case, I needed lights that would illuminate a 15-foot by 15-foot area with a dining table well enough so we could see our food and maybe play some cards or board games. I went for commercial-grade LEDs on a 48-foot strand. This gave me the option to hang the lights tightly for added illumination, or to spread them out.

Solar, battery or wired? Solar lights harness the sun’s energy and cost nothing to operate. The downside, is that if there is no sun, the lights may not charge.

Batteries have the same advantage as solar in that you can install them anywhere without worrying about running electrical nearby. They have a higher power capacity than solar and thus can shine brighter. The downside: Batteries will need to be replaced periodically.


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