Help With String Lighting

String lighting is very popular now for outdoor and tented events. The difficult question for many people is how much do I need. You want enough light for your event but not so much that it’s too bright. Conventional wisdom says for a room indoors, you need 1 watt for every square foot of space. But that’s for things like reading, cooking etc. Most people want a little less light for their events so that if the put candles on the table they don’t seem to be a waste. After playing around with different lighting plans, we came to .5-.6 watts per square foot. Once we have that number, figuring lighting becomes a math problem. Our string lighting has 1 11 watt bulb every 2 feet. So now we find out how many square feet in the area we’re lighting. If, for instance, your are is 600 square feet, we multiply .6 (watts) by 600 (sq ft) to arrive at 360 watts of light needed. Divide 360 (watts) by 11(watts per bulb) to arrive at 33 bulbs. Multiply 33 (bulbs) by 2(feet per bulb) to arrive at 66 feet of lighting. So that’s how much light you need. The next question is, how to space it. We find that the string lighting casts light comfortably about 8-10 feet out. We try to space our strands from 10-15 feet apart for an even level of light. The 600 sq ft area in our example could be 20×30 or 15×40 or any number combinations. The most common look people want are parallel strands but we have also done “X” patterns. One important factor to consider is the weight of the strands and how much they will sag. We use weighted poles that are 11’ tall. Strands longer than 40’ will sag down to height of 7 feet or lower. Strands longer than 50’ can topple over a pole with over 200 lbs of weight in the base. Keeping that in mind, shorter strands are usually easier to set up than longer strands. You will need a support every 40-50 feet of lighting.  If you’re using your own string lighting, consider spending the extra money for LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs require that same watts of power as their light output. A typical 11 watt light needs 11 watts of power. This adds up quickly and can overload your circuit. A standard circuit is 110 volts and 15 or 20 Amps. That translates into 1650-2200 watts (volts x amps= watts). At 5.5 watts per foot, you reach the limit of your circuit with 300-400 feet of lighting. LED bulbs provide the same light as incandescent bulbs at about one tenth the power so you could put 3000-4000 feet of lighting on one circuit. LED bulbs are more expensive to buy, even more so if you want dimmable ones but if you use them a lot, the savings on your power bill pays for it.