One of the most attractive ways to create soft, diffuse lighting also happens to be one of the cheapest and most energy-efficient options out there: LED rope lighting. Rope lights can be shaped to line ceilings or furniture, and they come in many different colors and configurations.
The Benefits of Rope Lights
Rope lights are LED bulbs spaced fairly close together inside a flexible plastic/rubber tube. Because the tube protects the bulbs from exposure, most of them can be used out of doors as well as inside. They come in a variety of colors, including versions where bulbs of several colors alternate along the rope. They look fantastic and classy – even just the plain white ropes. They’re also low-voltage, which makes them very cheap on your electric bill.
LED lights last a very long time while using very little electricity compared to other types of lighting. They also stay cooler than other bulbs, which means they don’t add any heat to your home. That’s important if you want to light a room that’s always warmer than the rest of the home. (If you’ve got hot spots, you might want to read about my experience with Vornado fans.) This combined with the protective rubber casing means you can touch and move a rope light while it’s plugged in and lit.
How to Use Rope Lights Indoors
There are two basic looks you can achieve with rope lights, depending whether you leave them exposed or hidden. Run them along behind furniture, and you get a mysterious glow that really sets a mood. But exposed rope lights – running along, say, a baseboard or ceiling’s edge- look pretty magical, too.
Hallways and Closets
- String rope lights along a dark hallway to act as a nightlight. In most cases, this works best if the lights are along a baseboard. But if you have small kids or pets you’re concerned might chew on them, put hooks in the ceiling and string your rope light through those.
- String them along a staircase. It looks beautiful and makes it easier for people to see where they’re going.
- Need some light inside a closet or cabinet? Rope lights are perfect.
- String them along the underside of kitchen cabinets to create a beautiful effect. Also, it will create enough light to cut back on how often you need to turn on the main kitchen light to see what you’re doing in the evenings.
- Above cabinets can be beautiful, too.
- If you have a vaulted ceiling, put rope lights along the shelf of it.
- Use them to light the TV or computer room at night. TVs and computer screens look better with fewer lights on. A rope light makes it very easy to get up and go to the kitchen without turning additional lights on, but it won’t create enough light to interfere with your glowing screen.
- Speaking of TV, if you have a home theater or media room, string these along the aisles to complete the movie theater look. Now all you need is an usher.
- Use colored rope lights as a nightlight in a child’s room. The diffuse glow is comforting as well as helpful if they need to get up in the night.
Rec Room/Man Cave/Whatever
- Put one strand around a bar in a rec room, and string another near the ceiling inside the bar area to create a mysterious glow. With enough rope light placed in the right spots, you can see what you’re doing behind the bar without turning on additional lights, and that leaves rest of your rec room with a nice amount of ambient light for chillin’.
- Use them in a bathroom that adjoins a bedroom so partners won’t wake each other up every time they go to the bathroom during the night. Instead of turning on a blinding light, you can just rely on well-placed rope lighting to let you see what you’re doing.
Using rope lights outdoors
For outside use, you should consider solar rope lighting. They don’t need an outlet, they’re perfectly safe in the rain, they’re powered by free sunlight, and they usually have sensors so they only light up when it’s dark.
- Put them along walkways.
- Wrap them around trees, or string them around the low-hanging boughs of trees so the light points upward, illuminating the branches. This makes your yard look like some kind of Wonderland.
- Put them around a shed or other outlying building.
- Put them along a porch to illuminate steps or other potential hazards in the dark.
- Wind them along a deck railing.
- Hook them to the underside of a table umbrella to create gorgeous lighting for evening meals outside.
- String them around windows that are dark and accessible from the ground – the kind of window burglars like. The rope lights can light the area enough to make the burglar feel exposed but not glare into the window and annoy the people within. And instead of looking all “OMG burglars!”, this actually looks decorative.
I’m sure there are many more uses you can put rope lights to. Please share yours in the comments!