Christmas Light Bulb Sizes

Christmas Light Sizes- History and Meaning

Christmas lights come in a variety of sizes and shapes, each with a different use and a different history. The first lights offered for Christmas decorative use appeared in 1895, and they have only continued to change since then, taking on almost any shape imaginable. Many times have I been asked about the differences between different bulbs, such as which are brighter, which fit a certain use, and so forth. So I thought that I might take a moment to give a primer on the unique styles of bulbs that Christmas lights and decorations use.

The most common incandescent Christmas light in use is called a Mini light bulb. It is officially named the T1¾ bulb. The first thing to note is that for cone and tube (T) shaped bulbs, the number refers to the diameter of the bulb in eights of an inch. Therefore, mini lights are 7/32nds of an inch in diameter, or about 5.5 millimeters and tend to run between .5 and 2 watts in brightness. They have a straight cylinder shape, with a soft point tip, and snap into sockets rather than screw in. As the most common type of bulb currently on the market, they come in many variations and are used on most types of lit decorations, and can be used for almost any task or purpose.

Mini lights were not the first bulbs to be made and sold, though. The first incandescent Christmas light bulbs were cone shaped, called the C style bulbs. First becoming standardized in a now unused shape in 1919, the “true” bulb size appeared in 1924. These old style bulbs were designated C6, with a diameter ¾’s of an inch across.

C6s are not common anymore, and any strings listed as such are likely to be larger glass or plastic covers over bright mini bulbs instead. More common now are the C7½ bulbs, usually called C7. Just shy of an inch in diameter, they are the large style bulbs most often called Retro in appearance currently. They have a clear tapered cone shape, a screw-in base referred to as “candelabra” size, and an average brightness of 5 watts. These larger bulbs are good for an old-fashioned appearance, indoors or out. Bubble lights are often of this size and base as well.

The most common other C light in use is the C9, more properly called the C9¼. These bulbs are more than an inch and a quarter in diameter, and their length is over half again the length of the C7. Due to their size, brightness, and the heat they give off, these lights are for the most part only used in outdoor decorations, heavy duty outdoor strings and yard decorations. They have an intermediate sized base, larger than the C7's, and have a brightness of 7 watts.

Other than the standard tube and cone lights, there are multiple variations of incandescent Christmas lights. The globe (G) style bulb appears in many forms. Their numbering refers to their diameter in millimeters, so the G12 berry lights are just under half an inch in diameter. Globe lights are the most common to come in a faceted crystal appearance, scattering the light that shines. G23 bulbs are about an inch in size. Both of these types are similar to the T style mini lights for their size and usage. G40 and G50 Christmas lights, on the other hand, are much more like the larger C style incandescent bulbs. 1.5 and 2 inches respectively, they come with the same screw bases that the C lights have, and have the same brightness, relatively.

At the extreme end in terms of size and specific usage are the rice and micro rice light bulbs. These very narrow, short bulbs have a brightness about a tenth that of even mini lights, and are mostly used in miniature decorations and small wreaths and trees.

A completely different style of light that still appears occasionally in decorations is the fiber optic light. These lights consist of a single large lamp light, with a series of optic fiber wires that extend from it. This transmits the light to the tips of the wire, giving it a glowing end.

LED lights, on the other hand, can come in almost any size. Likely to appear in C5, 6, and 7, as well as mini style, and others, their molded plastic material allows for a much wider set of options. A common bulb is the M5 mini. The bulb is the same shape and size as a standard mini bulb, but the surface is heavily faceted, giving it a crystal look.

A notable style of LED light is the wide angle bulb. This bulb is the same width as a standard T mini bulb, but instead of a tube, it is shaped as a single flat cylinder, short and convex. As LED light project straight out unless reflected by the facets of the bulb, this causes the light to project in a particularly intense and direct manner. Because of this, even when compared to other types of LED style bulbs, the wide angle lights stand out in brightness.

Tube or cone, small or large, bright or subtle, all these bulbs are available. Find the ones best suited to you here.

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