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What is the difference between warm and clear Christmas tree lights?


When decorating for the holidays, one of the most important decisions is what kind of Christmas lights to use on your tree. The two main options are warm white lights and clear lights. Both can create a beautiful tree, but they have some key differences that are important to understand when making your choice.

Warm White vs Clear: The Main Differences

Here are the main differences between warm white and clear Christmas tree lights:

Color Temperature

Warm white lights have a yellowish “warm” glow, while clear lights look more neutral and “cool.” Warm white lights create a traditional, nostalgic feel, while clear lights have a more modern, sleek look.

Light Spread

Warm white lights tend to spread their light more evenly and farther than clear lights. The yellowish hue helps diffuse the light over a broader area. Clear lights tend to look more focused and directional.

Bulb Options

Warm white lights are available in a range of bulb options like mini, C7, C9, globe, and flame tip. Clear lights tend to have fewer options and are most commonly mini lights.


Warm white lights create a cozy, inviting ambiance that works well in any room. Clear lights have a more icy, elegant feel that pairs well with cool color schemes.

Highlighting Ornaments

The neutral light of clear bulbs helps ornaments pop. Warm white can make some colors look dull or washed out. But warm white also makes ornaments glow in a vintage way.

When to Use Warm White Lights

Here are some of the best uses for warm white Christmas lights:

Classic Look

If you want a quintessential, old-fashioned Christmas tree, warm white lights are perfect. The familiar soft glow evokes timeless holiday nostalgia.

Cozy Ambiance

Warm white lights create a warmer, more inviting mood. They work well in living rooms and other areas where you want a cozier feel.

Vintage Ornaments

Vintage glass ornaments, bubbler lights, tinsel and other retro decorations pair beautifully with the vintage vibe of warm white lights.

Spotlight Tree Sections

Use warm white lights just on focal areas of the tree to highlight special ornaments or layers. Mix with clear lights on the rest of the tree.

Outdoor Trees

The brighter glow of warm white lights makes them a good choice for outdoor trees, where you need more light to stand out.

When to Use Clear Lights

Here are ideal uses for clear Christmas lights:

Modern Look

If you want a contemporary, trendy tree, clear lights are the way to go. Their sleek look complements modern spaces and decor.

Icicle Effect

Clear mini lights piled thickly on branches create a magical icy, sparkling effect like icicle lights.

Bold Ornaments

The neutral light of clear bulbs lets ornate or colorful ornaments take center stage without competing with the lights.

Trees with Dense Foliage

On dense trees, clear lights shine through branches better than warm white. The focused light penetrates layers of needles more easily.

Small Trees

For small trees, clear lights add radiance without being overpowering. Warm white can look too bright on little trees.

Comparing the Light Output

When comparing light output, there are a few key factors to consider:


Lumens measure the total quantity of visible light emitted. Warm white lights tend to produce significantly more lumens than clear lights.

Light Type Typical Lumens
Warm White 24-26 lumens per bulb
Clear 8-12 lumens per bulb

Beam Spread

As mentioned above, warm white lights spread their beam over a wider angle, around 210°. Clear bulbs have a tighter beam angle of around 130°.

Distance of Light

With their higher lumen output and wider beam spread, warm white lights typically illuminate farther than clear lights. Clear lights have a more limited effective distance.

So while clear lights produce less overall light output, their focused glow can be very bright up close. Warm white casts light farther but is less intense up close.

Power and Longevity

There are also some notable differences in power use and longevity between warm white and clear Christmas lights:

Power Consumption

Warm white lights use slightly more power. A 100 bulb string uses around 40 watts compared to 30 watts for clear. This difference is due to the higher lumen output.


Thanks to LED technology, both warm white and clear Christmas lights can last 8,000 hours or more. Warm white lights may degrade slightly faster than clear, however, since they run hotter.

Outdoor Use

Clear lights hold up better for outdoor use, where their focused light handles weather conditions better. Warm white lights are not quite as durable when exposed to the elements.

Different Options for Each Type

Warm white and clear Christmas lights are available in a variety of different options:

Warm White Options

  • Mini lights – Small bulbed lights on wire strand
  • C7 lights – Medium round bulbs
  • C9 lights – Large globe bulbs
  • Flame tip bulbs – Pointed flame shaped bulbs
  • Wide angle cones – Extra wide beam spread
  • RGB – Multicolor, remote controlled

Clear Options

  • Mini lights – Small bulbed lights on wire strand
  • Micro lights – Extra small bulbed lights
  • LED strips – Ribbon-like flexible strip lights
  • Icicle lights – Draping clear mini lights
  • RGB – Multicolor, remote controlled

So in summary, warm white lights come in more retro bulb shapes while clear lights are focused on mini and micro options. But both can also be found as programmable RGB lights.

Cost Comparison

In terms of cost, clear Christmas lights tend to be a little cheaper than warm white lights:

Light Type Average Cost Per String
Warm White $10-$15
Clear $7-$12

The increased cost of warm white lights is due to the higher lumen output requiring more LEDs per bulb or longer strands. But clear vs warm white pricing can vary a lot depending on the bulb type and features.

Incandescent vs LED

Today’s Christmas lights use LEDs rather than traditional incandescent bulbs. Here’s how they compare:


LEDs can last up to 10x longer than incandescent bulbs – up to 10,000 hours. No more replacing half the strand when bulbs burn out.


LED Christmas lights consume up to 90% less energy and stay cooler than incandescents. Lower energy bills and less risk of fires.


LED bulbs are more resistant to breaking and weather damage than fragile incandescent glass.

Color Options

LEDs come in every color and shade, unlike limited incandescent palette. Any color light you want is possible.


LED Christmas lights are more expensive upfront but save money over time due to their longevity.

So while incandescent lights still have a classic appeal, LED Christmas lights are definitely a smarter long-term investment. Both warm white and clear lights are available in LED versions.

Safety Tips

Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind with both warm white and clear Christmas lights:

  • Use only indoor/outdoor rated lights outside
  • Check for broken bulbs, damaged wires before hanging
  • Do not overload extension cords
  • Use hook and loop fasteners to hold lights in place, not nails or tacks
  • Turn lights off when going to bed or leaving the house
  • Keep lights away from flammable decorations

Following basic safety guidelines for how you install and use lights will help prevent fires and accidents.


Both warm white and clear Christmas lights have their pros and cons. Warm white lights create a classic, cozy look that works well both indoors and out. Clear lights have a modern vibe and make ornaments pop. Factors like your tree size, ornament colors and the overall look you want to achieve should help determine which type you select. And thanks to LED technology, today’s Christmas lights use less energy and last much longer than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs while coming in a wide range of options. Whatever lights you choose, following some basic safety tips will help make your holiday season glow happily and safely.