Rope Lighting

A guide to home rope lighting

While outdoor Christmas decorations might first spring to mind when you think of rope lighting — as in the bands of lights running along your eaves or the reindeer rope lighting sculpture you put in your backyard — this new lighting trend is also making its way inside the home. Today, rope lighting is being used from the kitchen to the bathroom and beyond.

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Rope lighting is just what its name entails, a series of small lights encased in a tube (or rope) that, when lit, give the appearance of a continuous string of light. Rope lights are available in a number of colors, but for most interior purposes, clear rope lights are the way to go.

Uses for Rope Lighting

Because rope lighting isn't the most attractive thing to look at, it works best in places where light is needed but where the fixture itself can be concealed. Like tubular fluorescent lighting, rope lighting works great under kitchen cabinets. Book shelves with decorative molding are another great place to use rope lighting because the lights won't take up vital space.

You can also use rope lighting to create ambience or night light around a room. LED rope lighting, which uses very little energy and doesn't heat up, is perfect around a window frame or even along the floor in a child's room, home office or bathroom. For soft light, make sure you're using 12-volt rope lighting or less — save the 120-volt options for your Christmas decor.

Choosing Rope Lighting

The first factor you'll want to consider when choosing your rope lighting is size. Some brands and types are sold only in 2-foot strands, while others are sold in 4-foot strands or longer. You can even find it by the spool, which will save you money if you're going to cover a large area.

You may also find that you need to connect strands of rope light or cut them down to size. If this is the case, make sure the light you buy comes with connectors and splicing instructions included. Most sets will, though some discount rope lighting will require you to buy these sets separately.

Finally, you'll need to consider mounting the rope light. Some sets run on clips, which are attached to the wall with small screws. The rope light is then pushed into the clip, where it is held securely. Other rope lights mount using tracks, which are either screwed into the surface or attached with adhesive. If using adhesive, make sure you don't get any on the light itself.

The most important thing to remember with rope lighting is that, while it can fit in small spaces, it must never be fully enclosed. Though most types of rope lighting produce minimal heat, it's still important that this heat has room to dissipate.