Ultimate Patio Light String Showdown – PLT vs Harbor Breeze

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Ultimate Patio Light String Showdown - PLT vs Harbor Breeze

We’re back with the next installment of our showdown between our commercial-grade PLT outdoor patio lights and stringers from other brands. If you haven’t read the previous two posts in this series, here is a quick rundown of what we are doing. We look in stores and online at a variety of retailers for patio lights similar to ours. We compared wire type, sockets, bulbs, end plugs, and customer reviews to see how they stack up.

The first post covered a Better Homes & Gardens set from Walmart, and the second post examined Addlon string lights from Amazon. Neither were designed for long-term outdoor use and didn’t hold a candle to our PLT strings. Today, we’ll be taking a look at a string from a big-box home improvement store: the Harbor Breeze from Lowe’s.

harbor Breeze/Portfolio string lights for outdoor lighting.

Harbor Breeze Patio Lights from Lowe’s

The 48′ Harbor Breeze patio string lights from Lowe’s comes with 18 suspended sockets spaced 24″ apart along a black wire. It comes with LED ‘Edison style’ bulbs and two additional replacement bulbs. These strings are weatherproof & are IP65 rated. The cost for the string is $49.98.

Initial Unboxing

When we first received these patio lights, they arrived to the office in a very nice box…with a large Portfolio logo on it (as seen above). There was a bit of panic because we though we were sent the wrong string lights. A quick check of the product page confirmed that all of the product images, specs, and information printed on the packaging matched up. Harbor Breeze and Portfolio are both Lowe’s house brands, however that doesn’t really explain the packaging. The running assumption is that they are combining both brands into one. We will continue to refer to it as a Harbor Breeze string since that is what we ordered and what it is branded on the product page.

We noticed a few things right off the bat during unboxing. First was that this string looks closer to our patio lights appearance-wise. The second was that the bulbs were pre-installed. Instead, they were in a box with cell dividers. And last, the plugs were not outdoor rated.

SJTW 20 AWG wire used for Lowe’s string lights.

Wire

Unlike the previous two string lights we looked out, this one has 18 AWG SJTW wire. This thermoplastic wire is weather-resistant and is ideal for permanent outdoor lighting.

It’s interesting to note that, per the manufacturer, the maximum wattage of this stringer is 14.4 Watts. Generally, an 18 AWG patio stringer has a higher max wattage than this. This string light in particular has been designed to us only the bulbs that came with it, hence the low max wattage.

Commercial-grade PLT Stringers: Our commercial-grade string lights also use SJTW wire. The difference is the wire gauge. Our strings range between 14, 16, and 18 AWG.

Sockets

This Lowe’s string light has medium E26 sockets made of PVC. They do have gasketing, however it is very thin and flimsy. When used in outdoor areas prone to excessive cold or hot temperatures, thin gasketing can become brittle and wear out faster.

The sockets are molded to the wire, but not very tightly. When the wire is moved around, gaps become visible. This can allow water to enter, potentially shorting out the socket or the entire string.

 

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Gasketing

Gasketing

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Molding Gaps

Molding Gaps

 

Commercial-grade PLT Stringers: The PVC sockets on our stringers are molded directly to the wire to seal them against water. They also feature thick rubber gasketing that will last for years to come.

Bulbs

The bulbs for this string came in a box separated by cell dividers, but despite this, all of the bulbs were scratched and scuffed. In all honesty, they look used, and it is very noticable once the bulbs are lit. No one is going to want to use bulbs that look like they been knocked into trees and other hard surfaces.

The only information printed on the bulbs is the wattage and voltage, which is 0.8 Watts and 120V. Per the product page and one of the warning tags on the string, you can only use these bulbs in this string. The other warning tag contradicts this, stating that the sockets are rated for up to 11 Watts. There is no other mention of this anywhere else, so it is best to error on the side of caution and not attempt to use different bulbs.

Replacement bulbs are available from Lowe’s, costing $7.98 for two bubs. While better than the Addlon replacements, this will get costly very fast.

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Commercial-grade PLT Stringers: Bulbs for our stringers are sold separately, allowing you to fully customize your patio lights. It also ensures that none of the bulbs arrive scratched. Choose from a wide selection of traditional incandescent lamps for a classic look, or LEDs for reduce energy costs. This also makes getting replacements simple and easy.

Plugs

Like the previous two strings, this one also has indoor rated plugs that use fuses. There are fairly large gaps around the wire going into the back of both plugs, and the male plugs has a few large gaps around the fuse cap. The female plug comes with a plug cover, but it doesn’t go on well at all and comes off easily. Due to the plugs, these string lights should not be used outdoors at all.

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Commercial-grade PLT Stringers: Our PLT patio lights use outdoor rated male & female plugs molded to the wire, ensuring that water cannot enter. The female plug also comes with a cover that fits snugly over the face.

Mentions of IP65 on product page for patio lights.

Additional Callout

There are several places on the product page that mentions that this patio string light is IP65 rated. Outdoor lighting products are only as good as their weakest component, and for this string it’s the plugs. Being that they are indoor plugs with nothing stopping water from entering, there is no way that the string is IP65 rated.

Reviews

At the time this post was written, this Harbor Breeze string had a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating, with only 73% recommending the product. The steadily growing negative reviews mention a variety of issues. Many customers complained that fuses were either missing entirely or blew as soon as the string lights were plugged in. A lot of reviews also mentioned that connecting two or more strings together also blew the fuses, even though it says you can connect up to 66 sets.

There were also complaints about bulbs being received scratched. A lot of customers also had water getting into the bulbs. And not just in one or two bulbs, all of them. Bulbs that didn’t get flooded only last a short time, with many failing within weeks to a few months. Several customers also complained about the cost of replacements, especially when having to replace nearly every bulb.

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Commercial-grade PLT Stringers: Customers rave about how much they love our commercial-grade PLT patio lights. They love the many customization options, the overall quality of the wire and sockets, and how long they last.

Final Thoughts on this Patio Stringer

While a huge improvement over the previous two competitor strings we looked at, this Harbor Breeze patio light still leaves a lot of be desired. The gasketing is thin and likely to wear out sooner. And considering the number of reviews showing water filled bulbs, they don’t keep the water out. You are stuck using the bulbs that are included with the string and replacements are expensive. But by far the biggest issue with this string is the end plugs. They are simply not for outdoor use.

Our commercial-grade PLT string lights have one again blown away the competition. With their weather-resistant wire, sturdy sockets with gasketing, and outdoor rated plugs, our string lights are designed to be safely used as permanent outdoor lighting. You have the freedom to use any bulbs you want, letting you create the perfect atmosphere for your outdoor spaces.

Ready to light up your outdoor spaces with some PLT patio stringers? Call 1-800-624-4488 to speak with one of our lighting experts. They can help you find the right patio strings and bulbs to complement your outdoor space, whether it’s your backyard, deck, or patio. You can also visit our website, 1000Bulbs.com.

In our next installment, we’ll be looking at a Hampton Bay string from Home Depot.

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