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Are Fairy Lights LED?

Fairy lights can be a beautiful party decoration or the perfect finishing touch to a room, and a quick search will lead you to a huge range of potential options. But what powers these mood-defining centerpieces? 

These days most fairy lights are LED. Some decorative string lighting still uses traditional incandescent bulbs, but LED lights are now more common because they last longer, save energy, and produce less heat.

This article will look into how LED lighting works, how LED lights are different from other kinds of light bulbs, and why LEDs are a better option for fairy lights. Along the way, I’ll also offer some suggestions for great LED fairy lights, whether you’re looking for classic Christmas lights or something a little bit spicier.

Christmas Lights
Red Chili Pepper Battery Operated LED Kitchen String Lights

How Does LED Work?

An LED, or light-emitting diode, is a light source that works by passing an electric current through a semiconductor. To put it simply, the semiconductor allows the electrons in the electric current to release energy in the form of light.

Here’s a youtube video that explains this further:

This technology has been around for over 50 years. As it’s gotten better, it has come to replace traditional incandescent lighting in more and more situations – including fairy lights and indoor lighting installations.

How Is Led Different From Other Light Bulbs?

That’s all very well, but how are LED fairy lights different from string lights that use traditional bulbs? There are some key differences between LED lighting and other types of light bulbs, and these differences have a significant impact on the cost and longevity of your fairy lights:

LED vs. Incandescent Bulbs

LED is a comparatively recent innovation in household lighting, so those Christmas tree lights you saw as a kid? Those were almost certainly incandescent bulbs – essentially, small versions of your regular light bulb.

These work by using electricity to heat an inner filament until it shines. This means that as much as 95% of the energy an incandescent bulb uses is spent on creating heat rather than visible light. Though widespread, they are much less efficient than other electrical lighting options on the market. 

LED vs. Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are very different from both incandescent bulbs and LEDs. They have an inner casing of gas that reacts with electricity to create UV radiation. In turn, the UV radiation filters through the phosphor coating on the bulb, and this reaction produces light.

Both of these bulb types make decent fairy lights, but LED lights have several advantages that may make them more suited to your needs.

Why Do LEDs Make Better Fairy Lights?

LEDs Are More Energy-Efficient

This is the key to their success and one of the main reasons why LEDs are becoming the option of choice: not only for fairy lights but in everything from cars to cameras and even in medical devices. By converting electrical current directly into light, LED skips the middle processes of heating a filament or creating a chemical reaction that incandescent or fluorescent bulbs rely on. As a result, LED lights can sometimes use as little as 20% of the energy a traditional bulb needs.

LEDs Last Longer

Because they need less energy to run, LEDs last longer than other lighting options – by a significant stretch of time. In fact, LED lights can last even 25 times longer than their incandescent counterparts and 10 times longer than fluorescent bulbs.

LED Lights Are Cheaper

So, if LED lights use less energy, that’s going to have an impact on your electricity bill, right? Absolutely. In fact, The Washington Post looked into this and found that to run a string of incandescent fairy lights for 45 days at 12 hours a day would cost $3.53, while to run a comparable string of LEDs for the same amount of time would cost only $0.41.

You can even get LED fairy lights that are solar-powered! These LiyuanQ Solar String Lights

LiyuanQ Solar String Lights

cost you nothing to run and have the added benefit of being kind to the planet.

LED fairy lights may have a slightly higher up-front cost, but the reduced cost of displaying them – not to mention the fact that they last longer and so don’t need to be replaced as often – pay off in the long run.

LEDs Are Safer

Incandescent bulbs heat up after a while of being switched on, increasing the risk of burns and fires. While any electrical appliance or decoration should be used with caution and common sense to avoid accidents, LED lights don’t produce perceptible heat, making them a safer option for lighting up Christmas trees and other flammable decorations.

LED Lights Don’t Burn Out

Does anyone remember screwing and unscrewing every last tiny light on the string to find the weak link that made the whole strand go dark? Well, gone are those days! LED lights don’t have a filament to burn out, and so they’re unlikely to go dead. The strand of lights may gradually dim over time, but you don’t have to worry about the bulbs dying or needing to be replaced.

LEDs Are Easily Battery Powered

While you can get battery-powered incandescent fairy lights, most incandescent bulbs are designed to run on the voltage of mains electricity. LEDs, on the other hand, are much easier for manufacturers to make battery-powered. These BXROIU string fairy lights are a great option to decorate outside or in places where an electricity plug is out of reach!

2 x Fairy String Lights Battery Operated

LED Brightness Can Be Adjusted

Non-LED lights tend to have two settings: ‘on’ and ‘off’. A fun perk of LED lighting is that many models extend beyond that to allow for controlled dimming and brightening. TaoTonics String Lights are just one great example of fairy lights that let you adjust the lighting to the mood – whether that’s bright and happy or dim and relaxed. 

TaoTronics 33ft 100 LED String Lights TT-SL036 Dimmable

LED Colors Can Be Changed

Incandescent light bulbs only produce white light, so the color of the fairy lights depends on the color of the bulb casing. This means incandescent fairy lights can only be one color – the color of their glass. That’s why strands of Christmas lights used to only come in white or multi-colored.

But LED technology means that you can actually change the color of the light itself. For example, these CYLAPEX Color Changing Fairy Lights have a remote control that allows you to swap between 16 different colors. So whatever look you’re shooting for, it’s at your fingertips, literally.

CYLAPEX 2 Set Color Changing Fairy Lights

LEDs Can Be Remote Controlled

Like I said, these days, you don’t have to plug and unplug your fairy lights to turn them on and off. Some LED fairy lights have remote controls that can determine the color, flashing pattern, and even the timing of your lights. These Govee LED Fairy Lights come with a remote control that allows you to set them ‘on’ for a certain amount of time – so that they turn off, say when you go to work or after you fall asleep. Neat, right?

Govee Led Fairy Lights Bedroom

Final Thoughts

Altogether, LEDs are a great option for fairy lights and have come to dominate the market for good reason. They have many functional benefits, including being longer-lasting and more energy-efficient than traditional string lights. LED fairy lights will help you to save money and to have more control over the overall effect of your string lights. 

LEDs also offer aesthetic benefits like the ability to change the color of the lights, remote control the pulsing, and dim the brightness. So, in conclusion, not all fairy lights are LED: but all the best ones are.


  • Alanna Greene

    Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, he also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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