A common question our customers ask is how many Christmas tree lights should they use.
It’s a matter of personal preference … there’s no magic number … do whatever you think looks best. All are valid answers to the question, but none of them are necessarily helpful when it comes time to shop for lights for your tree. Despite allowing for personal variances, we’ve found that there are “magic numbers” that will make your tree look its best.
First, check out our Complete Christmas Lighting Guide for inspiration.
Option 1: Lights on the perimeter of the Christmas tree
A traditional rule of thumb is that you should use 100 incandescent mini lights for every 1½ feet of tree. This translates into about 400-500 lights for a typical 6- to 7-foot tree, or 600-700 for a larger 9- to 10-foot tree.
Keep in mind that this lighting volume will work well if you wind your Christmas tree lights mainly around the outer edges of the tree, circling down from the top, but keep the lights on the outermost ends of the branches. Using this rule is also good if you have a narrow or skinny tree, of if you just prefer a slightly less lit tree display.
Option 2: Brighter lighting and branch wrapping
If you prefer your tree well lit or if you prefer to wind Christmas lights into the branches, use 100 lights for every 1 foot of tree. That means that the standard 6- to 7-foot tree would use 600-700 lights, or for a larger 9- to 10-foot tree, use 900-1000 incandescent mini lights.
Calculating lighting this way allows you enough lights to add some depth to your display, particularly if the tree is of medium or wider width. Rather than just winding the lights around the edge of the tree, wind them in and out the branches a bit so that you have lights in the interior of the tree as well as the outer edges. You’ll have a dimensional look with lights peeking out throughout the tree!
Additional Factors with LED Christmas Lights
Many people are upgrading to LED lights for their trees and other Christmas light displays. Most LED lights are brighter, providing greater illumination per bulb. Because of this, fewer lights are generally needed. Without getting overly complicated in the “mathematics” of tree lighting, we suggest that you reduce the lights needed based on the above rules of thumb by 25%.
So, let’s say you have a standard width tree and are going to wind the lights up and down the branches, and you’re going to use LED lights. Using the standard 6- to 7-foot tree, you’d want to use about 450-525 lights, while for the taller 9- to 10-foot tree, we’d recommend 675-750 lights.
What about bulb size? From a strictly illumination standpoint, these numbers apply regardless of bulb size, particularly for LED lights. Many of the smaller LED lights, such as polka dot lights, provide similar illumination as a larger C6 bulb, they’re just more “concentrated.” So in terms of the brightness of the tree’s lights, you wouldn’t necessarily need to adjust the numbers. That being said, from an aesthetic standpoint, you’re probably going to find that bigger bulbs may look a bit more cluttered and may want to scale back a bit on the number of lights you use. Likewise if going with smaller polka dots, you could probably round up a bit. In each case, a 10% variance down or up is all you need to make. Check out our LED Lighting Guide showing all the sizes and shapes of LED Christmas tree lights.
The general advice to do what you think looks best is still a good guide to how many lights you’ll want on your tree. But if you follow the recommendations above, we think you’ll be happy with the results.