The Annual Christmas Light Nightmare

by updated 2010/12/23

This year I have been hearing lots of news about LED Christmas lights. Things like how energy efficient they are, how long they last, how bright the lights are, etc. Having spent what is now countless holiday seasons fighting with Christmas lights; the only question I want an answer to is this: Are the LED light strings more reliable than the traditional strings of lights? If you are a Christmas light veteran I don’t need to go any further. But just in case you are not, here are a few of the things those of us tasked with the annual Christmas light tradition have to put up with.

All of the following holds true whether you buy the cheapest strings of lights available or you splurge and pay double or triple for the “heavy duty” lights. When taken from the package the strings invariably work perfectly. This is by design and intended to lull you into a false sense of security and holiday cheer. This sense of security allows you to feel confident in getting out the ladder and scrambling all over a wet, slippery, roof in order to get the festive buggers up to the highest rafters. Big mistake. Now as all us veterans know, any string of lights you put on the front porch, fence, or any other easily accessible place, will work perfectly and work forever. I have lights that have been used on the front porch for years. If anything went wrong with them, I could change them in a few minutes, all while safely on stable ground and while staying dry.  Of course, after countless years, these easily reachable lights still work perfectly.

Just as one specific example, this year 1/2 of one string of lights along the highest and steepest part of our roof stopped working.  I got out the ladder, climbed up the roof, and while holding on for dear life replaced this string of lights with a new string fresh out of the box.  The new lights worked perfectly.  For. Two. Days.  Then 1/2 of the string stopped working.  It has been raining for days now.  It is almost Christmas.  And, from the street, the trees sort of partially block this section of roof anyway. So I ignore them.  I swear the Christmas light gremlins are messing with me.

But I dare you….  Spend the time to put an identical strand of lights up on the eaves, on a 30 foot outdoor tree, or along your roof’s ridge-line, and you can be assured of what will happen.  The lights will test and work perfectly before you put them up.  They will work perfectly when you are finished and back on the ground admiring your handiwork.  A day later, however, 1/2 half of the string at the highest, most inaccessible place will stop working.  You will then have to go back up and replace that strand.  Sometimes when you get the non-working string back to the ground, it will work perfectly.  More often it will flicker on and off or continue to not work at all.  No amount of bulb testing, wire shaking, speaking nicely and softly to them, (not), will coax them back to life.  So back to the store or into the trash they go.

So here is my Christmas message to the manufacturers of the new LED Christmas lights.  I know your history.  I have read the claims of reliability on your packaging.  I have paid extra for your heavy duty lights.  I have done this faithfully for more Decembers than I can remember.  And now you expect me to pay a grossly higher price for your new LED lights?  The problem has never been the light bulbs themselves.  It has been the inferior manufacturing of the wires and connections used to string these light bulbs together.  If all you have done is put the more expensive LED lights on the same shoddily made wires, then all you have done is made all of the above more costly.  Then again, I suppose this could take the annual lighting tradition a whole new level of jovial festiveness.  I think next year I will stick to lighting just the front porch.  That is what I say every December, though.  And I guess that is my issue, not yours.

Lastly, in all earnestness, I ask this…  Do any of you use the new LED lights?  What do you think?  Have the bulbs been put on more reliable strings?  I would especially be interested in hearing from anyone who has installed them in the highest, hard to reach places, and after a week or two still has them working perfectly.

Will Sig

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