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Outdoor Lights: What are Rope Lights?

Where and When to Use Rope Lights in Your Landscape

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picture of red led rope light

LED red rope lights.

Photo courtesy of PriceGrabber
Those clear or colored tubes of lights you see wrapped around porches, deck railings, columns, outlining windows, doors and lighting up a path or walkway are rope lights. Tiny lights spaced an inch-or-so apart are encased in PVC tubes that are very flexible, making them a favorite among residential and professional lighting designers. Like other light strand styles, rope lights are available in smart, eco, energy-saving LEDs (light-emitting diodes).

Done right, ropes can look like tubular neon lights, especially if they are synchronized to music. Most are available through retail or online stores in 9-foot lengths, with attachments to connect several ropes together. As with any type of LEDs, the price goes down each year as demand increases.

In his book, Holiday Hero: A Man's Manual for Holiday Lighting (Chronicle, 2003, San Francisco), author and Christmas lighting expert Brad Finkle suggests using rope lights for wrapping around tree trunks, railings, or framing porches, doorways and windows. He also sees advantages and disadvantages of decorating with rope lights.

Advantages:

  • Because they are inside a tube, bulbs won't fall out or come loose.
  • Rope lights can be programmed or bought in blinking, chasing or steady modes.
Disadvantages:
  • More expensive than miniature light sets.
  • For non-LEDs (incandescent, old-school lights), the only way to replace a burned-out bulb is to cut out the section and replace the bulb.

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