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Fixing Christmas Lights (It Can Be Done!)

You’ve spent the better part of the day pulling down boxes of Christmas lights from the attic, untangling the wicked mess of green wires and lights, precariously hanging over the gutters to fasten the working strands, and finally, your moment of glory arrives. Just like the movies, you ceremoniously plug in the single green plug to make the magic happen, and voila, it looks amazing, minus the one measly half of strand of lights right above the front door. Whomp-whomp. Your family’s high hopes are dashed as their disapproval is communicated with deep sighs. In defeat, you’d like to rip your whole Christmas light display right off the house and commence a Grinch-like stance for the duration of the Christmas season, but you’re better than that. Deep down, you know that a wimpy strand of lights won’t get the better of you. Old World Christmas won’t let you down. We might specialize in gorgeous ornaments for your Christmas tree (that also needs lights by the way), but as soon as your outside display is working, you know there are more strands of lights inside that need attention. 

Every strand you own can be fixed. Though it’s tempting to bundle them all up and throw them in the garbage (and even more tempting to light them on fire), and buy all new strands of lights. But Old World Christmas wants to save you a bit of money, and has a couple ideas for you to try first. These little green strands don’t need to taunt you any more. You can be the boss of them armed with a little bit of knowledge and some patience. There are usually three basic problems with lights: burned-out bulbs, burned-out fuse or a break in the circuit due to a different problem with the bulb. We’ll walk you through each one here so you can be your family’s hero after all.

A small tool that can diagnose many different Christmas-light problems is the Light Keeper Pro. This small tool that resembles a hot glue gun, but it’s battery operated and has many different spots to test many different parts of the strand, bulb, fuse and voltage. This tool can be purchased at most home-improvement stores. Buy a few of them after Christmas at a steep discount to use for years to come. 

If you have a strand of Christmas lights, but only half of the lights work, the Light Keeper Pro can help you. A strand of Christmas 100 lights has two separate circuits of 50 lights each. If half of your strand doesn’t work, there’s a break in the circuit on the non-working side. If the problem isn’t obvious, like a black light bulb indicating a burned-out bulb, the problem could be a different problem with a bulb. There are so many intricate parts to the bulb. Begin near the end of the half of the strand that doesn’t work. Working your way towards the end that does, isolate and insulate the bulb away from the other wires (each strand of Christmas lights has three wires) and test the voltage with the Light Keeper Pro (or an electrical tester commonly used by electricians). You can test every few, marking each section that works with a clothes pin or piece of tape. When the tester doesn’t beep you know you’re close to the problem. When you’ve isolated the bulb, gently pull it out making sure the thin wires at the base of the bulb are making contact with the metal in the base of the light casement. If not, replace that bulb with a spare. 

You don’t have to throw out any strands, because there are ways to fix Christmas lights. If you are trying to waste less and spend less, some patience and a bit of skill will be your ticket to strand after strand of working Christmas lights. Once you’ve mastered the lights, make sure you have the perfect light and ornament-to-tree ratio for the most beautifully decorated Christmas tree on the block. 

October 30, 2020 by Rachael Mitchell

Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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