The Many Lives of Patio Light Bulbs

Hiding behind a lamp shade is how many light bulbs live their lives, but patio light bulbs live their lives out in the wild. Good looks combined with surviving the elements is their calling card and there are many to choose from.

Globe Lights - The Classic

There are globe light styles for every type of patio stringer. There’s a reason for that. They are iconic and have been a hallmark of outdoor party lighting for decades. Popular sizes include the G20, G30, G40 and G50 and you can get these globe lights in a variety of base sizes.

G20 and G30 - Smaller Globe Lights

It doesn't have to be big to be pretty! The G20 and G30 bulbs are excellent for smaller spaces and most typically come in the candelabra (E12) base size. If you have a cozy hidden garden or a space with limited height and tight quarters the G20 and G30 sizes are perfect to avoid overpowering the space.

G40 and G50 - Larger Globe Lights

Big is beautiful too! As you might suspect, if you have a larger outdoor space you can accommodate larger bulbs. The G40 and G50 are true classic globe lights that bring style and fun to all outdoor lighting. The choice between the two comes down to personal preference and you can find both bulb types with candelabra (E12) and intermediate (E17) bases, which makes them pretty versatile. As a rule of thumb, typically the higher your lights are hung the taller your bulbs can be.

S11 and S14 - Globe to Vintage Lights

S11 light bulbs are similar to the shape of globe lights but their curves are slightly more balloon shaped. This makes them ideal hanging upside down and it’s one reason they are so popular on patio strings. Their cousin, the S14, is taller with more elongated sides, which are great for giving lights depth away from the string. The S14 shape is also popular because it carries the vintage Edison-style bulb shape. This is a very popular look on patio string lights. Stylized vintage light bulbs are also popping up more in restaurants, bars and other retail settings.

party lights bulbs

Vintage Style

Vintage Style

The Edison Bulb pictured with a cafe shade

With subtle changes to the way your lights are strung, you can easily repurpose your Christmas lights for patio use
With subtle changes to the way your lights are strung, you can easily repurpose your Christmas lights for patio use

C7 and C9 - The Best Kept Secret in Lighting

While most people think of C7 and C9 bulbs as Christmas lights only, they amazingly double as patio and party light bulbs year round. Why? During Christmas these bulbs are commonly strung standing straight in the air or wrapped in trees in the case of C7s. This gives them a certain look unique to Christmas and hence their stereotype. But... when you turn them upside down, the real party begins when you realize they lead a fun, secret double life. Just because something is marketed one way doesn't mean you can't use it another! And in this case, here’s one bulb type you can use for everything.

The Best Kept Secret in Lighting

The A Bulbs - Household Bulbs to the Rescue

If you actually prefer the look of a household-style bulb rest assured that bulb types like the A15 and A19 are here for you too. While they may not be as popular for traditional patio string lights they can look good depending on the setting, especially if your stringers are higher off the ground. If you are going for a festive party look, they also look surprisingly dashing in multiple colors.

dashing in color
e12 bulb base e17 bulb base e26b bulb base

All About That Base

This is the part of the bulb you can’t see but it’s kind of important -- the base. Luckily there are only three base sizes most commonly used but they are good to know.

  • Candelabra (E12) - Common in small household light fixtures, this base size is synonymous with C7 Christmas lights, which have been used for decades.
  • Intermediate (E17) - Most popular with C9 bulbs and other decorative globe light bulbs.
  • Medium / Standard Base (E26) - the most common household bulb base size.

These base sizes do not mix and match so always be sure to buy the right bulbs for your patio stringers or party lights.

Nickel Plated

If you want your bulbs to have good connectivity and handle the weather, look for nickel-plated bases. It’s what the pros use!

LED vs. Incandescent Bulbs -- Drama, Drama, Drama

Some people love one type and hate the other. It really comes down to preference.

  • LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy, they emit almost no heat which means they attract less bugs, and the coloration and light are spectacular.
  • Incandescent bulbs are classic, they emit that vintage filament light halo some people love and they usually are less expensive than LED bulbs. Their coloration and light are also fantastic but they require a lot more electricity.

If your project requires many lights but you have limited electrical outlets or don’t want to rewire your house, LED bulbs might be your best option because they require so little electricity. You can use incandescent bulbs for the same project, however you have to be more mindful of what your stringer capacity can handle as well as what your electrical outlet can handle. You can enjoy either bulb type but you’ll have to plan accordingly.

The best thing about the the LED vs. Incandescent debate … is choice.

lamps Are you team LED or team Incandescent?

It’s a Choice

The debate is on! Are you team LED or team Incandescent?