The Unsung Hero of Outdoor Party Lighting

Not all stringers are created equal. In fact, some can be downright dangerous under the wrong conditions. While stringer color may be your easiest choice (usually green, black or white) there are three other factors you should always consider:

Outdoor Party Lighting

  1. Wire gauge: If you see the numbers going up, the wire is actually getting thinner. It’s odd, we know. Thicker wire gauges can handle more amperage. It may not always be necessary or even required but it depends on the power load of your string. Typical wire gauges run 20, 18 and 16 for decorative lighting. The smaller the number the more heavy duty the wire gauge.

  2. Wire Insulation: SPT-1 and SPT-2 are common designations for wire insulation on decorative string lighting. This insulated coating is essential for keeping your copper wires safe on the inside (and keeping you safe too!).

    SPT-1 is the standard for moderate to normal use.

    SPT-2 is thicker and best for applications with higher wattage bulbs or for regions of the country where outdoor wires can take a beating from the elements. If you know you want higher wattage bulbs or are concerned about your stringer taking a beating from the sun, wind, rain or snow, consider SPT-2.

  3. Wire Wattage Capacity: Plain and simple, it’s good to know the max wattage capacity of your stringer.

    Example: Let’s say you want a stringer that fits all intermediate bulbs, which is pretty common. You need 100 ft. with bulbs every foot, which is 100 bulbs. Both the SPT-1 and SPT-2 version of this stringer have heavy duty 18-gauge wire.

    Why don’t they support the same wattage capacity?
    SPT-1 has less insulation and is rated to support less amperage and wattage. In this scenario above, the SPT-1 stringer can support 672 watts. The SPT-2 stringer can support 960 watts. Simply put, if you know that the bulbs you want to use require more wattage you need to use a stringer that is rated to handle them.

Bring in the Guy Wire

Certain commercial grade stringers have a little loop built into the wiring above each socket. This loop allows a guy wire to be cleanly strung through the length of your stringer. Why? Because all the tension in the line can then be supported by the guy wire rather than your actual light stringer.

If you are using your stringers in an application where constant tension may shorten the life of your string or cause breakage you should consider using commercial stringers built with a guy wire loop. This is common for commercial applications where public

safety codes require this extra precaution. It is also recommended if you have a lot of wind or routine inclement weather.

Lastly, some people want to create a light pattern that needs the stringers to be straight with no swag. You can do this with the stringer itself, but it puts an incredible amount of tension on your end-points and can cause premature string damage. If you need perfectly straight lines for your patio lights, consider employing the guy wire method to improve the life and safety of your lights.

Color Time

Patio string lights are commonly found in three colors: green, black and white.

  • Green string light wire can be used for just about everything. It blends in well and can be used for both holiday and non-holiday applications. It is also ideal for blending in with tree canopy backgrounds.
  • White string light wire is a little more unique and is common for special uses like wedding lights or decorative lighting during the holidays where you want your wire to blend in with the snow or house trim. Specialty parties or events use white wire as well because it is a softer color in the patio string light canopy.
  • Black string light wire also blends in well given the setting so the use-case often comes down to color choice preference. It can be used in any setting for both residential or commercial applications. One color benefit is that if you plan to use multi-color light bulbs, the black wire is a more neutral color option than green and it will compliment your color lights better as a result.