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Selecting the Right LED Christmas Lights for Your Holiday Lighting Display

Not many people study Christmas lights. Most people pull the lights out of the closet or attic some time around Thanksgiving, hang them on the Christmas tree, or drape them over some pushes and then take them down after New Years. If you are thinking about replacing those old incandescent lights this year with energy-efficient LED string lights you may be surprised at all the options available. There are differences between the options and it is good to know a little about the choices available before you go shopping.

Christmas lights are categorized and named according to shape and size. The style or shape of the bulb is signified by a letter such as "C" or "G" and the size of the bulb is stated as a number such as "6." The larger the number the larger the size of the bulb. The most common lights types are M5, C7, C9, and G12.

Most of us are familiar with the strawberry-shaped lights that are commonly used in outdoor displays. These type of lights are a C series light.[inline:1:2] The most common are the C-7 and C-9. These are the larger type bulbs. These bulbs were traditionally used for outdoor displays because they were much brighter, lasted longer than mini-lights. However, the larger C-7 and C-9 style lights used much more energy and very more dangerous because of the heat they created. In contrast, the LED C series lights are not brighter than the mini-lights. The size of the light source is the same. In fact, the C series lights actual produce a light that is less intense because the light is diffused through the large strawberry-shaped cover. The LED C series lights are a good choice if you want the bulb shape itself to stand-out and be part of the decoration. These larger lights are also a good choice if a softer, less focused lighting effect is desired. The larger C series lights also provide more flexible mounting options and many of the new models contain hooks for mounting on each bulb.

The other common style of Christmas light is known as a mini-light or M5. The M5 is a bullet-shaped light. These lights were originally developed as a safer and more efficient alternative to the larger C series lights. Most of us are familiar with these lights and probably use them each year. The LED M5 mini-light is a good choice if you want to have many small, focused points of light in your display. The light is more intense and less diffuse than that produced by a C series light.

The other common bulb style is the G style bulb. The G style bulb is shaped like a raspberry or globe. The smaller G12 style light is approximately the size of a large blueberry. The G12 LED string light produces a light that is similar and diffusion and intensity to the M5. However, the light produced by the G12 is less directional than the M5 as it is diffused through a globe shaped surface. The G12 is a good middle ground between the very focused light of the M5 and the diffuse light produced by the C series lights.