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
1 Babs (beetle)

Hi. Thanks for visiting my blog today.

We have made the change over to LED lights. We got them last year, and I have to say that they are still working fine. They are mostly indoor lights, but we do have outdoor lights (we left them up all year) and they worked perfectly when we switched them back on this year. Give me LED lights anytime. I hated the constant bulb failures of the other type.
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2 Will

Thanks Babs, that is the kind of feedback I am looking for. Since you left them up through all the sun and weather of the year and they are still working, that is a very good sign!

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3 Comedy Plus

Here LED lights are popular on boats. They use far less juice to run than the conventional bulbs. On a boat you are looking to not run down your batteries while anchored out and this is the ticket for many boaters.

Have a terrific day. :)
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4 Binky

I don’t know about LED lights, but the old incandescent ones operate on the Law of Christmas Lights which states that the life of the bulbs is inversely proportional to how high and dangerously inaccessible the lights are. It’s either an altitude thing, or the bulbs themselves are afraid of heights and therefore have a shorter lifespan the higher they’re mounted.
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5 Tony

While I am not a Xmas celebrator I can sympathise because Murphy’s law applies the world over & not just with Xmas lights. As I read this post visions of The Griswold Family Xmas came flooding into my mind. Do you mind if I call you Chevy??? I remember in my Navy days that the same applied to electrical equipment onboard ship. Especially in the engine & boiler rooms. The things that would need the most maintenance were always in the hardest to reach places. I am sure marine designers would say “Lets put that electric motor there. Oh no that’s too easy to reach. Lets put in in under there where those incredibly hot steam pipes are in the way just for the fun of it”
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6 Tony

P.S. Thanks for the heads up on the non-cartoon blog link missing from my menu. I was trying out Intense Debate commenting system & changed things a bit. Removed it now as it was giving me issues with the comments so gone back to how it was before
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7 Jan

I’m glad I only put one string of twinkly lights on my little tree perched way above reach of the dogs. Dealing with more than that would ruin my season.
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8 Tony McGurk

While I am not a Xmas celebrator I can sympathise because Murphy’s law applies the world over & not just with Xmas lights. As I read this post visions of The Griswold Family Xmas came flooding into my mind. Do you mind if I call you Chevy??? I remember in my Navy days that the same applied to electrical equipment onboard ship. Especially in the engine & boiler rooms. The things that would need the most maintenance were always in the hardest to reach places. I am sure marine designers would say “Lets put that electric motor there. Oh no that’s too easy to reach. Lets put in in under there where those incredibly hot steam pipes are in the way just for the fun of it”

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9 Tony McGurk

P.S. Thanks for the heads up on the non-cartoon blog link missing from my menu. I was trying out Intense Debate commenting system & changed things a bit. Removed it now as it was giving me issues with the comments so gone back to how it was before

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10 Samantha

I must admit that this made me laugh, only because we’ve had the nightmarish blinking strand this year. Only ours is on our tree. We tested them, put them on the tree, tested them again. Decorated the tree, and everything looked great. Then 2 days later the bottom strand is flashing while the top doesn’t. Unfortunately the tree is decorated nice and pretty, so we decided to just leave it and not have the lights on (they were driving all of us nuts).
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11 Lynda Lehmann

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Will!

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12 rudy kozar

I bought LED Christmas lights last year from the local Fred Meyer store here in the state of Washington. I found a couple of bulbs that didn’t light out of the box. LEDs are different in that they have to be plugged in a certain way or they burn out instantly. I finally discovered that some of the sockets were wired backwards and the LEDs had to be rotated 180 degrees.
This year when I got them out I found that some sections would not light. Upon further investigation I discovered so much corrosion on some of the LEDs that the wires coming out of the LED itself were completely gone. I have a friend that has had the same problem with some LED icicle lights. They do not seem to hold up to our wet weather here and I am having some difficuty finding replacements. I had hoped for much better performance from these lights.

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13 Keith

You’re right Will. It is the wires that need improving, along with the bulbs.

As for myself, I stopped hanging Christmas lights years ago. Call me a Scrooge if you like, but that is just too much work, for a very little reward and satisfaction.

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14 Steve

hi Will,
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I did find it in the spam folder as you suspected, but rescued it. Anther example of the problem of “false positives”.
As for LED Christmas lights, I love them (with qualifications).
I also used to love CFL bulbs, but just changed the kids’ bathroom lights back to incandescent because the CFLs were burning out every couple of months! CFLs are NOT good for applications were they are turned on and off a lot.
Back to LED lights, they used to not be very bright and also have a flicker (they would only light for half of the AC cycle). But the new ones seem brighter, and if they are RECTIFIED they don’t have the flicker. BUT… I have seen the same bulb corrosion problem mentioned above, so I’ll have to see how they really hold up year to year.
And I think it’s just a given that the likelihood of a string failure is directly proportional to the difficulty of access to said string. :)
Merry Christmas.
And now I’ll cross my fingers and hope my comment doesn’t join yours. :)
Steve
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15 The Painted Veil

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I hope you have a joyous celebration and a wonderful Happy New year!!
Jackie and family!!:-)
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16 Ron Lentjes

I don’t mind the colored LED strings of lights. On one string though, it also included ‘white’ LEDs as well as red, green, blue, yellow. I like the red, green, blue and yellow. And hate the ‘white’ ones (really so eerie-blue-crap-whatever-odd horrible light. So hid all the ‘white’ ones by putting black electrical tape over all the ‘white’ ones. Then is way ok again. I use INCANDESCENT for all ‘white’ light and LEDs for colored lighting. That is the problem with CFL and LED (LED much worse) is that the ‘white’ ones are just horrible! In my place I have ripped out all CFL and Fluorescent lighting. Put back all INCANDESCENT for all room lighting. Put up incandescent strings of (long filament 12V) christmas tree lights and colored LED strings of light. The point: LED is monochromatic and excellent for display purpose. But only the colored ones. The ‘white’ LED is just too awful for any use. For room lighting. Only INCANDESCENT which creates light by heating hot object giving BILLIONS of frequencies of quality light. Only fire-place light, candle-light, kerosene light, sun-light, and INCANDESCENT lights are in this quality light group. The LED / Fluoroscent / white-LED are in a group of their own. They only have about 5 frequecies and are cold, ugly light. Nop for me INCANDESCENT is warm and inviting light and that is that. Merry Christmas with INCANDESCENT lighting (or colored LED strings). Merry Scrooge for CFL / Fluorescent / white-LEDs! Cheers, Ron Lentjes.

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17 Ron Lentjes

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

Watch this program. Just do it.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5DCwN28y8o&feature=endscreen&NR=1

- the light bulb that is still working since 1901
- forced 1000 hour maximum life of INCANDESCENT light bulb
- planned obsolescence

Read through this. Take your time.

LIGHT BULB CLARITY:
NEW ELECTRIC POLITICS
http://ceolas.net/#euban

- “Philips: bulb ban sought for profits”

- Dutch Researchers cover Philips involvement:
The Unholy Alliance between Philips and the Greens…

- Remember!
Old simple cheap unprofitable incandescents – No patents!
CFLs, LEDs – Philips, GE, Osram etc – Plenty of profitable patents!

- In fact, light bulbs have been safely used for over 100 years without
significant problems, unlike other lights.

- The irony is that a normal ban would rather be on the main suggested replacement,
compact fluorescent “energy saving” lights (CFLs), with several health and
environmental concerns.

If you need a REST from the bad lighting from CFL or Fluorescents or white-LED Lighting or too-white, too-bright Halogens, just click on this link and sit back a while, taking in the warm glow of the two INCANDESCENT globes…

http://www.lc-cls.com/SafetyFirst/Lighting/

HOW TO STOP THE BAN OF INCANDESCENTS

- Speak directly to everyone

- If a store so much as starts banning just one kind of light (they will start with 100W first), then immediately email and write to them:

“Since you have banned my choice of light bulbs, I will no longer purchase any items from your store. YOU ARE BANNED.

This ban will not be lifted until all 40W, 60W, 75W, 100W STANDARD INCANDESCENT clear and frosted BULBS/GLOBES are returned to the shelves. Have a good day.”

And then get 5 other friends who will each tell 5 other friends to do the same.

DO. IT. NOW.

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18 Ron Lentjes

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

What is Incandescence?

Incandescence is the light produced by a heated object. This light contains BILLIONS of frequencies. It is the highest quality of light you can get.

How NOT to save energy:

- Using light source that cause a disturbing effect on people and environment around them. These sources are cold, aggressive, eerie forms of lighting. These include CFL, Fluorescent, and white-LED.

How TO save energy:

- Solar power
- Wind power
- Turn off electrical when not in use
- Use light dimmers (on INCANDESCENT lights)

(Note: Modern light dimmers use a TRIAC and no rheostat (have not heard that word for 20 years or so). They are VERY efficient. I use trailing edge dimmers and these dimmers also slowly turn on the light (dark to dimmer setting in about 2 secs) to further prolong the life of your INCANDESCENT. Do not be fooled by some of the current false news about light dimmers. They are efficient).

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