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How Many Patio Lights Do I Need?

String lights are becoming a popular option for people to add to their patio space.

They’re attractive and offer just enough light to gently illuminate the space after sunset to feel more relaxed without being so bright that your garden looks like an airport runway.

At least, that’s the case if you buy the right amount. But too few, and they probably won’t have the effect you’re looking for – just a dull glow.

How do you get the right patio lights for your home?

There’s no exact number for the right number of patio lights. It will depend on various factors, including the size of your patio and the number/brightness of the bulbs on the string. Most people prefer to have string lights around the whole perimeter of their patio to provide enough ambient light.

To help you make up your mind, I’ll take you through the various factors you need to consider and how you can work out the length of string lights needed if you want to surround your patio.

How Many Patio String Lights Do I Need?

Hanging string patio lights outdoor

Let’s look at what you’ll need to consider when deciding how many string lights you want to hang.

Height Of Hanged Lights

How high you hang your string lights will impact their brightness. The higher they are, the less light will reach the patio as it will disperse more in the air.

At the same time, you don’t want to hang them so low that you or any guests have to duck under them every time you step onto your patio.

If you have them at around six feet from the ground, then the taller members of your family or friends group won’t be comfortable.

Ideally, you should hang bulbs around eight or nine feet from the ground.

This keeps the actual bulbs away from eye level, but is not so high that their light isn’t noticed, and you can carry out any maintenance with a simple stepladder instead of a full-blown ladder.

Brightness Of Bulbs

Bright light bulb of outdoor string light hanging in the garden

The second thing to consider is how bright the bulbs are and how bright you want the patio space to be.

A lot of this comes down to personal preference. For example, some people will want a patio that feels reasonably well-lit.

Not super-bright, but enough to maintain that sort of late evening, the sun not far from setting a vibe.

Other people will prefer something a little more dim, where you still know it’s clearly evening. Still, you’ve got enough ambient light that you aren’t falling asleep or squinting to see details in your garden.

The brightness of string light bulbs will vary, with some as low as 25 lumens per bulb for a very gentle glow, right up to around 150 lumens per bulb for a stronger, brighter light.

If you’re buying the brighter style of the bulb, you’ll probably want fewer lights in total – likely around the perimeter of your patio and possibly only around three sides.

With more gentle bulbs you might prefer to have more string lights in total – often people like to zig-zag them back and forth across the patio space, so that there’s a soft glow all over the patio.

Density Of Bulbs

Densed bulbs of string patio lights hanging above the cozy street in Tbilisi

You don’t just need to consider brightness but also bulb density. It’s not as simple as checking the lumens of the bulbs, as density will have just as much of an impact.

There’s a simple formula:

Firstly, take the number of bulbs on the string lights and divide it by the length of the string lights, either in feet or meters.

This will give you the number of bulbs per foot or meter.

Then multiply this by the lumens per bulb, and you’ll get the lumens per foot or meter.

This is the best way to compare string lights for brightness.

The Size Of Lit Area

The size of the patio you want to illuminate is the main thing you need to consider when you decide how many patio lights you need.

Buying a single 20-foot string will not have much of an impact if your patio is quite large – you might light up one side of it, but the rest will be in darkness.

Consider other lights that you have too, though. For example, if you have wall lights near your patio, you need fewer string lights.

There’s no simple, single answer because everyone’s outdoor space is different, and everyone’s tastes are too.

But as long as you think about these factors, you’ll be able to work out roughly how many lights you likely want for your patio.

How To Calculate Length Of Required Patio Lights?

String outdoor lights hanged around arbour perimeter

There are a few different ways to hang patio lights, but the easiest is to hang them around the perimeter.

This gives you even lighting across the whole space, and it’s also ideal if you have a pergola since you can just run the lights around the outer edge.

If you don’t, you just need an anchor point in each corner, which could be a tree, a gutter, or even dedicated string light poles.

There are a few different ways you can hang your patio lights.

You need to measure the length and width of your patio space, add those together, and multiply by 2.

That will give you the total perimeter and total length of lights you need. Simple.


However, this will give you the length you need if you want your string lights to be taut.

If you instead want them to have a slight dip in the middle, you’ll need to add a little bit extra to the length.

Not too much – around an extra 10% should be plenty. Otherwise, the lights will hang too low.

So, calculate your total perimeter and multiply the total by 1.1 if you want a dip in the middle of each string.

Also read: Can Patio Lights Be Shortened?

Final Words

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly how many string lights you need for your patio because everyone’s patio is different.

Even my formula for working out the perimeter of your patio still needs some thought from you.

While that will tell you the length of string needed, you still need to decide which string lights to get based on their brightness and density to get the effect you desire.

What’s your personal preference for patio lighting?

Do you want it subtle, or do you prefer to make your outdoor space feel like an extension of your living room, just under the stars?