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Nothing brightens up a space like some thoughtful lighting, but the days of bulky lamps and overhead track lighting are long gone, replaced by more subtle and flexible lighting configurations. The not-so-secret hack: rope lights.
Whether you’re lining a staircase, accenting your vaulted ceilings or showcasing your home theater setup, the best rope lights will help illuminate dark spaces and add a focal point or touch of decor to any room. Unlike traditional lighting setups, which hang or stand in one place, rope lights are made from flexible strips of tubing that house hundreds of tiny light bulbs inside — they’re meant to bend and be shaped according to your needs.
Rope lights can be shaped into Christmas tree lights, for example, or used outdoors to light up your walkway or patio. You can also bend them to form a word or phrase (I.e. Happy Birthday) or use them as a frame around your doorway or piece of art. The newest rope lights are all made from weather-resistant material, meaning they’ll hold up to rain, snow and other harsh conditions without dimming. The durable plastic tubing found in rope lights also seal out dust and debris, and many rope lights use a PVC coating that is heat-resistant, so it won’t warp in the sun. Some of the popular rope lights on our list can be controlled using a remote, making it easy to set lighting patterns for a party or to turn on a set of lights in case of emergency.
Unlike strip lights, which place their bulbs across a flat surface, rope lights space out their bulbs inside a long cylindrical tube. The tube is made from clear materials, that allow the light to shine through. Because the tube can be bent or “roped around” a physical object, it gives off the appearance of cascading lights, great for adding ambiance to a space. (Note: while strip lights allow you to cut them at any point on the strip to customize to your space, rope lights can usually only be cut once, to not disrupt the connection).
When buying rope lights, consider what you’ll be using them for. Rope lights typically come with incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs. LED bulbs are often more vivid and they last longer, while using less power. Incandescent bulbs require more energy but they can emit a wider variety of colors. Rope lights also come in varying lengths, so consider the space you’re looking to decorate. The best rope lights will have a connecting dock at the end, allowing you to connect more strips to extend your rope as necessary.
One last thing to keep in mind: rope lights won’t completely replace traditional lighting sources. While they’re great for accenting a space or to highlight, say, an entryway or display piece, rope lights won’t be bright enough to use for everyday tasks like cooking or writing. You’ll still need an overhead light or desk lamp for that.
1. GuoTonG Plug-In LED Rope Lights
Looking to set up some lighting outdoors? This 50-foot strip gets you more than 500 bright and reliable LED bulbs that are great to illuminate your patio, lawn, walkway, doorway and more. It works for indoor use too.
The lights are bound by a thick and durable plastic tube that won’t fade or warp in the sun or heat. A weather-resistant PVC coating protects your rope lights from the elements (it’s IP65-rated for “dust tight” and ability to withstand heavy streams of water). You can use these lights year-round, in the sun-drenched days of summer and the snowy winter months without any damage.
Need to adjust the length? The lights can be cut once to customize it to your space. The total length can also be extended to 150 feet by connecting up to two more rope lights on the ends. The tubing itself is super flexible and can be easily bent into different shapes.
This set includes a 50-foot LED rope light, two 110V 8A cable plugs, a user’s manual and all the accessories needed to install the lights.
PROS: Dust and water-resistant properties make these a solid pick for outdoor use.
CONS: Lights are not dimmable. Color has a slight yellow-ish tint; if you want a pure white, you should consider other options on this list.
2. Areful LED Rope Lights
If you have a small space, office or studio and don’t need a long strip of lights, pick up this set from Areful. The rope lights measure 16.4 feet, well-sized for illuminating a workspace, ceiling, balcony or plants. The lights can be controlled using remote control, with eight different colors and multiple effects (think fading, pulsing and auto sequencing).
What we like: the tubing is strong and waterproof. Areful says these lights last up to 50,000 hours.
This set includes the rope lights, a remote, a 120V 0.3A adapter, a user manual and accessories for mounting.
PROS: Users say the lights are easy to install with the included mounting hardware.
CONS: At just over 16-feet, this is the shortest option on our list.
3. Govee Warm White Rope Lights
With a subtle white glow and sparkling bulbs, this set of lights work great for decorating your yard, walkway or trees.
These lights come with eight different display settings (think: fade, flash, wave, etc.) and you can set a timer for when you want the lights to run. The 100 LED bulbs give off a warm and romantic glimmer.
What we like: both the battery case and the rope material are waterproof, making this an ideal set for the outdoors. These lights get a lamp life of 50,000 hours.
PROS: Warm, neutral color. The flexible tubing makes it easy to bend and twist these lights to work for your decor scheme or setup.
CONS: Lights don’t change color. Some say you have to be fairly close to the lights for the remote control to work.