Can Festoon Lights Be Left Outdoors in All Weathers?
Thanks to our lovely British weather, it’s difficult to know when it’s okay to leave decorative lights in the garden. Since the weather can be so unpredictable - with clear skies one moment and a sudden downpour the next - you need outdoor lighting solutions that can deal with all sorts of weather conditions.
Weatherproof festoon lighting could be the answer to all of your troubles. These lights are highly durable and safe to use outside, and what’s more, they’re fantastic for garden parties and events. Here’s all you need to know about outdoor festoon lights and how to properly maintain them in inclement weather.
What Are Festoon Garden Lights?
Even if you haven’t heard of festoon lighting, you’ve probably still seen it before. Also called party lights or café lights, festoon lights consist of large, exposed bulbs strung together as a garland - you can think of them as a larger, more retro version of the ever-popular fairy lights or string lights.
When they’re used to decorate an outdoor party, festoon garden lights can lend an air of both elegance and playfulness, making them suitable for a wide range of occasions. Once the sun sets, festoon lighting creates an intimate and romantic ambience with its soft, twinkling glow.
If you’re interested in purchasing festoon lights, you’ll be happy to know that there are so many colour options of festoon bulbs to choose from. You can find warm white festoon lights that create a more muted, softer glow, cool white lights that are bright enough to illuminate your whole garden, and even multi-coloured and rainbow lights - perfect for children’s birthday parties! You can also find heavy-duty festoon lights that can withstand whatever the weather throws at them.
Are Festoon Lights Waterproof?
Since rain is so common in the UK, having waterproof outdoor fairy lights and festoon lights is absolutely essential. Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell if light bulbs are waterproof - you just need to look at the IP rating.
What’s an IP rating?
IP rating stands for Ingress Protection rating, and it reveals how weatherproof a piece of electronic equipment really is.
An IP rating always consists of two numbers (i.e., IP44), with the first number representing how well an object resists the intrusion of dust and the second representing how well it resists the intrusion of water. The higher the number, the better the level of protection (on a scale of 0-6 for the first number and 0-9 for the second).
So, if a light bulb has an IP44 rating, this means that it’s protected against solid particles larger than 1mm and low-velocity sprays of water. As a result, this light bulb would be fine in a light downpour but not heavy rain. For full protection against rainfall, you can purchase IP65 outdoor lights.
Why is it so important to look at the IP rating?
Knowing about IP ratings will help you purchase the perfect weatherproof festoon lighting for your garden.
For example, if you’d like to hang your festoon garden lighting in a more covered spot, such as under a pergola, you could just buy IP44 lights as they’ll offer enough protection against splashes of water. If you want to hang your outdoor festoon lights in the open by placing them along your fence or between trees, you should buy IP65 lights since they’re fully rainproof.
The consequences of disregarding IP ratings are quite straightforward. If your festoon lights don’t have enough protection against the rain, then water can get into the lights and cause them to short-circuit. In more severe cases, you may suffer an electric shock when handling your festoon lights, or an electrical fire could break out.
How to Maintain Your Weatherproof Festoon Lighting
However, just because you’ve selected the right waterproof lights, this doesn’t mean that your work here is done.
To ensure your festoon lights remain in good condition, you’ll need to maintain them properly and avoid damaging mistakes. Here’s how you can look after your festoon garden lights and keep them pristine for many years to come.
1) Buy LED Festoon Lighting
In the past, festoon light bulbs were often made of glass, which made them prone to shattering. However, nowadays, LED festoon lights are widely available, and these durable light bulbs will help you enjoy your festoon lighting for longer.
LEDs are encased in hard, shatterproof plastic rather than glass, making them a much better choice for outdoor lighting. In addition, since LEDs don’t produce as much heat as incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, they’re much less likely to be hot to the touch or cause a fire.
LED lighting is also superior due to its long lifespan. An LED light bulb can last up to 50,000 hours, which means you won’t have to worry about replacing your outdoor bulbs too often! As a result, these heavy-duty festoon lights have many benefits in terms of safety and durability and are much easier to maintain.
2) Check the IP Rating and Waterproof Labels
You need to purchase weatherproof festoon lighting if you want it to last in any outdoor space. As explained earlier, the IP rating on your festoon garden lights will tell you how much they can withstand certain weather conditions, with IP44 lights being able to withstand light rainfall and IP65 lights being waterproof and perfect for open spaces.
However, you also need to check the suitability of the cables for outdoor usage. Always purchase a waterproof cable that’s encased in strong plastic or rubber - check the details of all products before you purchase them.
3) Don’t Leave Light Bulb Sockets Empty
If you do find yourself having to change one of your LED bulbs, make sure you immediately replace it after taking the old bulb out. This is because leaving the socket empty will allow water and dust to enter it, so when you install your new bulb, you could be trapping these elements inside.
To maintain the condition of your festoon lighting, you should have a new bulb ready to replace the old one when you remove it. You should also never replace your bulbs if it’s raining, as this will allow water to enter the socket and damage your lights.
4) Check the Cables for Damage
Before you hang up your festoon garden lights, you should always check the cables for any damage. If the casing has split or worn away at any point on the cable, this could pose a threat to your safety, particularly when it rains.
You should regularly check your festoon lighting to see if it has sustained any damage from being outside in your garden. If the wiring is ever exposed to the elements, this could cause electric shocks or even an electrical fire. Replace any damaged cables with new ones as soon as possible.
5) Use Cable Protectors
One way to minimise the risk of damaging your lighting cables is to use cable protectors if they run along the ground.
Ideally, your cables should be out of the way so that no one trips over them, but if you do have some cables on the ground, you can use a cable protector to safely hide them. Not only will this protect your cables from the elements, but it will also protect your family and guests by removing a potential tripping hazard.
6) Don’t Shut Cables in Doors or Windows
Another way to protect your cables is to never run them through windows and doors.
It can be tempting to run your cables through a door or window to reach an indoor power socket, but this could result in the cable becoming trapped if the wind suddenly blows the door or window shut. This is probably one of the most common reasons why cable casing becomes damaged, exposing the electrical wire within.
To avoid this issue, you should definitely consider installing an outdoor plug socket on the exterior of your home where you can plug in your lights. Always cover your outdoor plug socket with waterproof casing to keep it safe.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to mess around with all of this complicated wiring, a simple solution is to opt for solar-powered festoon lights. These solar festoon lights charge during the day using sunlight and then turn on automatically when it gets dark, making them an easy, low-maintenance lighting option.
7) Don’t Staple Your Cables
Finally, one of the most important tips for maintaining your weatherproof festoon lighting is to never staple the cables during installation or use metal hooks.
If you have a garden structure like a pergola, you may be tempted to fix the cables into place using staples, but this is actually one of the worst things you can do. With a staple gun, you can easily pierce the casing of your cable as you try to attach it to a pergola or fence, which will allow water and dust to enter it and cause extensive damage.
Similarly, metal hooks are also a bad idea. Although these hooks won’t initially pierce the casing, they can become very hot if they’re in direct sunlight, which can melt the casing over time. As a result, the electrical wiring will become exposed to the elements.
How to Install Your Outdoor Festoon Lights Correctly
So, if you’re thinking of installing string lights in your outdoor space, how should you go about this the right way?
With waterproof outdoor fairy lights or festoon lights, the key is to attach the garlands to fixing points in your garden (e.g., trees or garden structures) using strong plastic hooks or zip ties. Then, you can run the cables underground or under a cable protector to reach your outdoor plug socket.
Once this is complete, you can either leave your festoon garden lights up all year round or store them neatly when they’re not in use. Wrap your festoon lights around a plastic reel and store them in a safe, dry place. Avoid throwing them straight into a box as this can tangle the cables - you don’t want to spend your time detangling all of your lights right before a big garden party!
Where to Buy Heavy-Duty Festoon Lights
With the helpful tips in this guide, you’ll be able to select the right weatherproof festoon lighting and maintain it for many years to come, no matter what the weather throws at you.
Of course, you’ll make your job much easier if you purchase durable, heavy-duty festoon lights in the first place. At Ultra LEDs, not only can you find a wide range of long-lasting and safe LED lighting, but you can also find the perfect lights for any outdoor space.
Whether you want warm white festoon lighting, cool white festoon lighting or festoon lights in many different lengths and colours, Ultra LEDs have everything you could ask for. Check out the Ultra LEDs website to browse a wide range of high-quality outdoor lights.