JimOnLight.com’s Guide to Christmas Lights, Part 2: Modern Lamp Types and Sizes



Part Two:
Modern Lamp Sizes for Christmas Lights

Christmas lights, like everything else, have various sizes, wattages, and source types to choose from, especially if you really look hard for specialty stuff. From incandescent mini-lamps to LEDs, even fluorescent christmas lights and OLED ribbon (they are in prototype!) – there are many different colors, brightnesses, and styles to use. Most of these lamp types also have the option for a diffused (frosted, “ceramic,”) appearance to the lamp or a transparent version where the filament can be seen when the lamps are energized. I’ve sketched a few lamp base sizes for reference – not to scale, but not horribly out of scale:


First on the left of the image above is the mini lamp, which you should recognize – it’s probably the most popular christmas light style, LED or non-LED. When you buy a strand of mini-lamps, you typically get a spare lamp or two, and a blinker lamp (it’s the red-tipped one in the group) that makes your strand blink, low-tech style. The blinker in a set of lights works like the thermostat in your house, like an old-school relay – the bimetal strip inside gets too hot, it opens the circuit. When it cools down, it closes the circuit. Rinse, lather, repeat. A plug-side version of this concept also exists, called a “winker plug,” which works the same exact way (thermal switch) except housed in a plug adaptor.

Here’s a picture of a mini-lamp set of 200:


On the drawing, to the right of the mini-lamp is the C-7 lamp. I always remember the general size of the C-7 apart from other lamps of that dimension because it’s about as large as my thumb, from the first knuckle to the tip – like here:


You’ve seen those from time to time in other applications, too – granted it’s not exactly the same C-7 lamp like for christmas lights, but some tail lights are C-7-ish, lots of home lamps, etc.

The C-7 is like the little brother (or sister, equal opportunities at JimOnLight.com) to the C-9 lamp, which is one to the right of the C-7 on the drawing. The C-9 is a bit bigger – here’s a picture from this morning at Target:


This approximate size is also used in other applications, but with different bases – flame-tipped chandelier lamps, candelabra lamps for sconces around your house, and tons of others.

The 3 lamps we’ve already discussed are incandescent lamps, obviously. Lots of LED sources are appearing (and have been for some time) in stores and all over the place. There are several types to choose from, and if you look a little bit under the surface while you’re shopping lights, you’ll find some that are brighter and definitely superior to others.

First in LEDs, the standard 5mm LED source – this one with a wide angle for a jewel-shimmer effect. The lenses on the LED are typically smooth, and each lamp is made to spread the beam wide. I found a really cool set of these this morning while out shopping that are solar-powered:


You’ve seen the kind of LED lamp to the right of the wide angle source – it’s a typical round lens LED type with a medium-esque throw. Looking through a box of LEDs in this configuration just a little while ago, they don’t typically provide much information on beamspread for 5mm LED christmas lights. We can all wish, right?

The next kind of light is a globe shaped LED source. It’s pretty simple other than that, and there are different sizes of globe lamps. They also usually are available in a clear globe or some kind of customized jewel-cut globe, like this one below, which is a G12:


G12 lamps are an alternative to the look of mini-lamps and strawberry-shaped C style lamps.  If you look at a G12 versus a C-7 lamp, you get an idea about the size of a G12 globe – it’s approximately 1/2″ wide. The larger globe version (at least in LED land) is the G25, which is about an inch wide. A G25 lamp is about the same size as a US quarter, and is mostly a decorative lamp:


Here’s a G12 lamp intermingling with C-7s, all LED:


In the case of LED source christmas lights, no matter what size lamp you get – G12, G25, C7, a light shaped like the state of Massachusetts – the “shape” part of the light (strawberry shaped, globe, Massachusetts) is typically a plastic or acrylic lens of sorts that diffuses the light.  Incandescent C-7s and mini lights are glass, of course – even in the case of something ridiculous like a string of chili pepper lights or a string of little fat santas or something, the shape around the source is a plastic shape, and the light inside is probably a mini.  The plastic figure just sits over the lamp.

You probably already knew that, huh.  Well, in case you didn’t, check out these completely ridiculous set of leg lamp christmas lights from the movie “A Christmas Story” AAAAAAAA!


Novelty christmas lights come in so many different shapes and ideas that it makes my bald head spin.


Next up:
Part Three – Form Factor of Christmas Lights.  Stay tuned!

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