Whether it's an indoor Christmas tree or an outdoor evergreen, everyone wants to know how many lights they need to purchase to make it match the perfect tree in their mind's eye.
That's a tough question. I tried to write a program to calculate it but frankly, it turned out to be a near impossible task. Lighting a tree isn't like filling a swimming pool where you just measure the pool and do a little multiplication to calculate the volume of the water required to fill it to the desired level. (If someone takes this project on - logarithmic spirals and the like, then please share, otherwise I just decided to take 2 tylenol and moved on…..)
More art than math, one person's smattering of lights is another person's light circus. But since I get this question all the time, I'm going to give you my guidelines and you can trust your intuition to go from there.
I'm going to assume you are working with an evergreen tree. If you are working on a tree that loses its leaves, you use half the lights since you can see lights on both sides of the tree at the same time.
First, measure the tree's height, decide what style of light you are going to use (mini lights, C7 lights, or C9 lights) and look at the following chart. I've organized it by height but some trees are fatter and some are taller and thinner. Because this is not an exact science, start early in the season (think September/October) so that you can purchase more light strings if you need them.
Rule of Thumb Table for Buying Christmas Lights for an Evergreen Tree
The table that used to be here has been replaced by an automated tool!
See the How Many Christmas Lights Should I put on my tree calculator to get a nice range of number of different lights to put on your indoor or outdoor tree.
The tool is set up to input whether you want C7, C9 or mini lights and the height of your tree. Then the tool kicks out a suggested range of the number of lights. Have fun.
As a tip, I prefer a 4″ spacing on my mini lights for trees 10 feet and under and 6″ spacing for all those taller.
I like 12-inch spacing on the C7 and C9 lights because that is the spacing available on the standard light strings that are ready to go with fuses.
I hope this helps you get started on your quest for a perfectly lit tree during the Christmas tree. If in doubt (especially with the mini lights) order one extra set. Even if you don't use it, you'll have 50 or more spare bulbs.
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