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Outdoor Fairy Light Beginners Tips

Updated: 08/03/2022

I do love the warm twinkling glow of my outdoor fairy lights in the evening, and I find it so relaxing as their subtle glow reflects the small water features and pond I have. But when I started thinking about how to enhance my garden so I could spend more time in it later in the day, I was really lost for where to start. Did I go for something big, like some outdoor garden lanterns and swathes of landscape lighting? Then there is the choice of mains powered, solar powered or even battery operated outdoor fairy lights. Then there were colors, installation, placing, and care. It really was an overload of information!

What I wish I had been given some simple guidance to help me sort things out. In the end, I learned from hard experiences and a few toys out of the pram moments. Luckily, I gradually got things sorted, and now I am delighted with the results. So I thought that a few tips and hints for those of you just starting out might be useful. 

I hope these guidance notes on outdoor fairy lights will help you avoid the same problems I had. Within no time, you should be able to enhance your garden evenings and even think about some special seasonal outdoor party lights, outdoor Christmas lights arrangements, or for Easter and birthdays.

Uses for Outdoor Fairy Lights

Outdoor fairy lights shine and shimmer in the darkness. Tiny points of light, these strings bring to mind Christmas, parties, and celebrations. It is almost like having Christmas tree lights outdoor in your garden. You might think that what you see around the holidays is what you get, but you’d be wrong! There are all shapes, colors, power sources, and even how the light is emitted.

Around the holidays is when most people see these outdoor party lights, some houses lit up with a fantastic display. And when you go to the local department store or home center, you’ll see all kinds of strings available. However, for the truly unusual, you need to either visit a specialty shop or look online in places such as Amazon.

Here’s an example, perhaps you need a longer than usual string of lights to maneuver around a particular place, but you’ll probably not find it in a department store that offers ordinary lights. Or maybe you need a special design. Yes, there are companies who specialize in these strands, curtains, and nets of lights.

Now let’s go to summer and outdoor living from the holidays and winter. This is a wonderful time for outdoor garden lights! They are like stationary fireflies, illuminating your outside living spaces. Traditionally white in the summertime gardens, you can also sometimes find colorful strings to suit your decorative needs (not to mention set a mood). Some ideas include outlining gazebos, following the branches of trees, and highlighting garden paths. And let’s not forget creating a light sculpture on your landscape!

Can I Use Outdoor Fairy Lights in My Garden

Well, I look at it this way. If you have enough room to swing a cat, as it were, then there is enough room to install and enjoy outdoor garden lighting of some sort. The great thing about fairy lights and their many variations is their flexibility. You can have a permanent type of arrangement, or even just bring them out on special occasions. Having a range of outdoor party lights that you can light up a celebration with is great fun. You don’t have to have a huge length of them either. Start small and then add as you go along. That way, you won’t swamp your space. Look to enhance the natural beauty of your garden rather than completely drown it out. Subtlety is the name of the game.

What Type of Bulbs to Choose

So those are some of the uses. Now let’s discuss what color of white light you want. What we traditionally know as “white” in incandescent lights is almost a blue in the LED (light-emitting diode) versions of the outdoor fairy lights. The incandescent lights we’re so familiar with work with a filament, while the LEDs operate with the effect of electroluminescence.

The biggest advantage to LED outdoor lights is that they use less energy. Advantage number two is that they tend to last a lot longer. Add in a smaller size and better reliability.

What Type of Fairy Lights to Choose

Well yes, there do seem to be too many types to choose from first of all. But remember that most are just named after where you might put them. The term outdoor fairy lights is really an all-covering phrase. So there may be outdoor patio string lights, deck lighting, Christmas outdoor lights, and more, but they come into the same group. String lights and fairy lights really just describe ways of arranging fairy lights outdoor to suit situations. The real choice comes in how to power them. 

Low Voltage Fairy Lights

First up choice is mains powered fairy lights. This will require you to run an electrical cable from your indoor power point to where you want to install them. Now obviously this seems easy but does have many downsides. You are dealing with electricity here. So, you will have to keep the lights and cabling well away from water. 

If you are fixing them on your roof as Christmas outdoor lights, then beware of metal guttering and what wind can do. Also, the dangers from accidently damaging or cutting that cable during any home improvement or even cutting lawn areas are very real risks. Many people have ended up in ER as a result. Finally, you have to pay for that electricity, don’t you?

The other thing is that when you are just starting out, having to plan out your lighting plan, with all the cabling requirements on type and specifications to suit is a pain. Couple that with figuring out what transformer you need to counteract voltage drop and the cost of that transformer. Then it is not a simple matter for newcomers.

Solar Powered Fairy Lights

Speaking of powers, did you know there are solar powered fairy lights? Obviously, these work best where there’s plenty of sunlight during the days, and they can provide lighting when you need it at night. How do they work? The solar panels collect energy from sunlight and then convert that energy into electricity. The wonderful part is that you don’t have to worry about running power lines to where you need the lights! However, you do have to make sure that the solar panel portions of these outdoor string lights are exposed to the sun during the day.

Battery Powered Fairy Lights

What if you don’t have adequate sunlight, but you also don’t have an electrical source – must you sit in the dark? No indeed, you can take advantage of battery fairy lights. This kind of light string is most often used on tables or wreaths, wherever a traditional strand (with its accompanying power cord) isn’t practical. They do use batteries at a fairly good rate, and they don’t generally have many lights on a strand, but for setting a mood, they are invaluable!

Which to Choose

My choice is to go for battery powered fairy lights or solar fairy lights. They are perfectly safe for a start, and you can not put a price on your well-being. They are also environmentally sound as well. I do favor outdoor solar fairy lights over their battery powered cousins. Solar powered fairy lights use the best, free sustainable power of all, the sun. Batteries cost money and have to be disposed of properly. I like a bit of green contribution, as every little bit helps in my mind. With solar fairy lights, you can also buy waterproof fairy lights to combine with them. Water and light is just magical if done right.

Where to Buy

You will find that outdoor solar fairy lights are very easy to get online at places like Amazon and eBay, without dropping too much money either. You can get a good starter string of fairy lights for your garden for well under $20. Have a look at some of the best sellers and check out the customer reviews.

Waterproof Outdoor Fairy Lights

Water and electricity do not mix well as we all know. In fact it’s pretty damn deadly to get them anywhere near each other usually. Many people have ended up in ER or worse as a result of an electric shock. But what I have been asked many times is, “Can you put fairy lights into water?”

The answer is pretty simple for most of the time. If you want to fry your fish then yes. Otherwise keep them well apart. This is the continual problem for mains powered outside fairy lights as opposed to solar fairy lights. Even though the electricity from the mains is converted to low voltage, it is the current that matters. You can still get a nasty shock for your troubles or a real big one for that matter.

Of course, there is also the other issue of rain, melting snow, and frost. Getting that into the wiring, and again, is a dangerous mix. You can also blow the trips or circuits on your house as well. If it starts happening regularly, then you know you have problems and need to sort them out fast. If in doubt, always, and I mean always call a qualified professional.

But all we outdoor fairy lights fanatics also know that light and water are also a magical combination. So if you can combine them, then your outdoor spaces will benefit immensely. There are a few solutions though.

First of all, you could get rid of all that cabling and electricity totally. Electricity is dangerous full stop. Not only that, but it is expensive as well. Save yourself a few bucks straight away. Switch over to solar powered outdoor fairy lights for much more flexibility and a hell of a lot of safety improvement. You won’t be worrying about damaged mains cables again.

Secondly, invest in some proper waterproof outdoor fairy lights. These waterproof garden fairy lights are made specially and protect the wiring inside. You should be able to pick some of these waterproof outdoor lights at Amazon quite easily and inexpensively.

Third, the installation of waterproof outdoor fairy lights is simple. Because you are going to operate them from a battery or solar charged battery, grid electricity is needed. So they tend to be lighter anyway, as the cables connecting the lights carry less current. There is no armored cable to be installed or complicated transformer to be located somewhere. In fact, waterproof outdoor fairy lights take all the hassle out of setting up waterproof outdoor string lights or waterproof patio fairy lights.

Once the waterproof outdoor fairy lights are in, you will wonder why you didn’t do it before. There is no noticeable drop in lighting level or power source to remember to remove from sockets and no cables to worry about when enjoying your garden. You can be safe in your own garden, watching the water from your fountain sparkle and play in the LED glow of your waterproof outdoor fairy lights you have just put up.

Start Simple

So what do I mean by this. Well, rather than have a grand plan costing hundreds of dollars, with complicated arrangements, build it up gradually. By doing this, you will see just how to get the best from your garden and the lights. Mistakes won’t be costly, and you get a chance to move things around and experiment with future possibilities easier.

So perhaps we can begin with simple string lighting along a decking edge, small loops of patio string lights tracing the edge and framing your evening relaxation space. If you have verticals, use them, by spiraling up for a lovely effect. It does not have to be a grand scheme at this point, but subtle and simple.

As you get more confident, then move on to trying things out with water features, with some waterproof fairy lights. Or experiment with some garden string lights around trees and natural height. Framing pathways with pathway lighting is a great effect, especially if your outdoor areas are not right next to your house. Outdoor solar fairy lights are exceptionally good for this.

Well, I hope these starting tips and guidance for using outdoor fairy lights have got you thinking about what you can do effectively in your garden. Remember, keep it simple, safe and inexpensive first of all. Learn to experiment gradually with the natural features you have already to enhance them. This way, even a complete newbie can produce a beautiful nighttime glow to enjoy. Keep watching for more great advice.

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