GE’s Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights
After spending over 70 hours researching Christmas lights, interviewing experts, and testing 20 strands of lights side by side, we’ve found that GE’s Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights (available in multicolor strands of 50 bulbs or 100 bulbs and in warm white strands of 50 bulbs or 100 bulbs) are the best all-around indoor Christmas lights. This is the fifth year we’ve named these GE lights as our pick, and we can’t find any lights that match their color quality and their ready availability at Home Depot.
Like all LED models, the GE Colorite lights are safer, more durable, and longer lasting than traditional incandescent lights, and they barely draw any electricity at all. Among the LEDs we looked at, we found that the GE Colorites’ hues of warm white and especially multicolor most closely matched those of traditional incandescents—tested side by side at 4 or 5 feet away, they’re very difficult to tell apart. These GE lights also have a tidy wire that doesn’t curl or twist, simplifying the task of draping them through a tree or storing them in the off-season. The bulbs should last for at least 10 holiday seasons, and individual bulbs are replaceable if they go out (or you can just leave those; the rest of the strand will stay lit). The price is average for LED bulbs, although these do cost more than comparable incandescents. And they aren’t the best for outdoor use, because their design isn’t totally watertight. Overall, though, these lights offer better benefits and have fewer drawbacks than any other indoor lights we tested. They are available in multicolor (50 bulbs or 100 bulbs) and warm white (50 bulbs or 100 bulbs).
Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Lights
The GE lights have sold out quickly the past few years, so if that happens again, we recommend Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Lights (available in warm white, multicolor, or solid color). In our tests the multicolor lights looked as good as the GEs, while the warm whites had a cooler tone that was a little further from the coziness of an incandescent.
5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Lights from Christmas Designers
For outdoor use, we recommend the 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Lights from Christmas Designers, available in warm white, multicolor, or single color in a variety of lengths and bulb spacings. These lights offer all of the benefits of LEDs as well as a design that makes each bulb impervious to moisture for weeks in the snowy, sleety, rainy outdoors—we confirmed that by leaving a lit set submerged in a water-filled bucket all day. We liked the warmth of the color, the bright light output, and the manageable wires. Due to the unusual design of the wide-angle bulb, the brightness of each changes dramatically depending on where you’re standing, giving the lights texture and depth when they’re draped over a tree or twisting around a porch post. Because they’re likely to be exposed to harsh exterior conditions, these lights will have a shorter lifespan than indoor LEDs, but you can still expect six or seven seasons out of them.
These lights are ideal for larger displays: Because of their low electricity usage, you can connect a stunning 43 strands together and run them on a single outlet (with incandescents, you can connect only five or six, depending on the manufacturer). The only major drawback with these lights is that they’re a bit too bright for indoor use. Pro lighting designers and other experts consistently named this particular type of bulb as the ideal choice for outdoor holiday-lighting displays.
Christmas Lights Etc’s Wide Angle 5mm LED Lights
If our outdoor pick is sold out, we recommend Christmas Lights Etc’s Wide Angle 5mm LED Lights as a runner-up. In most ways they’re identical to the Christmas Designers lights, but they’re not as bright. They are a bit cheaper than our outdoor pick, though.
Incandescent Christmas Lights from Christmas Designers
Last, if you’re not ready to give up the unique warm twinkle of incandescents for an indoor tree, the Incandescent Christmas Lights from Christmas Designers are our favorites. These mini-light sets emit the warmest overall light, and like our other picks, they have an easy-handling wire. They also cost less than half as much as an LED strand, but they’re not as durable, they’re less efficient, and they won’t last as long.
Incandescent lights are typically rated for 2,000 to 3,000 hours of use, whereas our main recommendation, the GE Energy Smart Colorite LEDs, have an average life of 20,000 hours. Keep in mind that this is just the bulb life—the figure doesn’t even take into account how fragile and easily breakable an incandescent filament is. (A few years ago, I had to throw out half my incandescent strands due to nonworking bulbs.)
Article Courtesy of Wirecutter