Cafe-style light strands with edison bulbs are a beautiful way to decorate your patio. They are a fantastic and classy way to light up any outdoor space. Wineries, bistros, and night markets use them to create a cozy, intimately lit space that's warm and inviting to diners, and they look fabulous in backyards of just about any size.

These lights are a programmable, addressable version of the cafe market lights you can find at the hardware store. Add Arduino or CircuitPython code and you can turn your lights on in party mode, sending warm rainbow animations across your yard. 

These lights require 12v power, and also need to hold up in an outdoor environment. This guide will focus on how to power a 5v microcontroller and 12v lights from the same setup, and also show how to use a waterproof enclosure to keep your lights safe from rain and weather.

These are 12v lights with 50cm spacing between them. Each strand has 30 bulbs and they come with waterproof connectors on each end.

I got them from Ray Wu's store on AliExpress, which had the best deal I could find for this kind of light. They are available in different spacings and different voltages - be sure you get the 12v kind and not the 24v for the scope of this guide.

I plugged 4 strands in to a daisy-chain, for a total of 120 lights, without a noticeable voltage drop. 

Additional Parts Needed

Animation of Adafruit QT Py with onboard NeoPixel in a rainbow swirl.
What a cutie pie! Or is it... a QT Py? This diminutive dev board comes with our favorite lil chip, the SAMD21 (as made famous in our GEMMA M0 and Trinket M0 boards).This time it...
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Angled shot of DC power breakout board.
We were recently working on a project where we really wanted to power a QT Py ESP32 from 12V - but the only power input on the board is basically USB 5V max. Never...
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These lights require 12v power, but our microcontrollers need 5v power. This DC Power BFF is what we need. It can receive and deliver 12v power through its screw terminal port and 2.1mm jack, and at the same time, deliver 5v power to the microcontroller through the headers. 

Since this is an outdoor installation, it's a good idea to place the electronics inside a weatherproof box to protect them from the elements. This box is just the right size, and has two cable glands for passing power and data wires. 

Flanged Weatherproof Enclosure With PG-7 Cable Glands
Whether you're raiding tombs or traversing nuclear fallout wastelands, this is the most heavy-duty enclosure for your project! Weatherproof? Check. Tough polycarbonate cover?...
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1 x Stemma Cable
STEMMA QT / Qwiic JST SH 4-Pin Cable - 50mm Long

Power Supply

These lights require a 12v power supply. We have a few in the shop which are great for indoor installations, but if you're putting these out in the garden it's a good idea to look for an outdoor 12v power supply.

Here's the one I ended up using. It's made for landscape lighting, so it's completely weather-proof, and it has some cool additional features like a built-in timer and an automatic light sensor that turns your lights on at sunset. 

60W Outdoor 12v Power Supply

This one is rated for 60W, which is way more than I need for this strand of lights, but since I am planning on adding additional landscape lighting to my yard, I went with a solution that will allow for some expansion.

Depending on your power supply and setup, you may find it handy to pick up a couple of screw terminals. This male one fits into the Power BFF.

1 x Male Screw Terminal
Male DC Power adapter - 2.1mm plug to screw terminal block
1 x Female Screw Terminal
Female DC Power adapter - 2.1mm jack to screw terminal block

Tools & Additional Materials

  • Soldering iron & accessories
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • Small & standard sized screwdrivers
  • Light socket plug adapter, in case you don't have a power outlet handy

This guide was first published on Jun 05, 2024. It was last updated on Jun 18, 2024.

This page (Overview) was last updated on Jun 05, 2024.

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