It’s that most wonderful time of the year once again and for many Americans that means it is time to decorate. Even people who do not decorate for any other holiday often will do some decorating for the Christmas holiday whether it is a simple tree, a nativity, or other decorations. Most people that celebrate Christmas will have some kind of decoration set up. One of the most popular decorations and one that can be seen by not only family and friends that visit you but by neighbors and anyone that happens to drive by is Christmas lights. Christmas lights can be beautiful and be a joy for all to see but there is a dark side to these illuminating decorations and that is the pain, and frustration caused by bad bulbs.
Christmas is a happy time but it also is a time of great stress. Worrying about family coming over, buying presents, dealing with the holiday crowds at the store, and the list goes on. Decorating your house with Christmas lights is the last thing you want to add to that list of stressful Christmas time problems. While I cannot guarantee that all your bulbs will burn bright this holiday season I can help you to make the pain of finding those bad bulbs and replacing them as painless as possible.
Fortunately Christmas lights are designed differently then they used to be. In the past the bulbs were wired in series so if one bulb decided to go out they all would go out. Christmas lights are still wired in this way but now often new Christmas lights will have a shunt, this “shunt” allows some bulbs to burn out without taking out all the rest of the bulbs. However there is only so much a shunt can do and if to many bulbs go out the shunt will not protect you. Also sometimes the shunt don’t work, they could be soldered wrong or many other problems could go wrong and they either will only give you one or two extra bulbs or they wont work at all. It is also impossible to know until you buy a strand and have lost some lights if there is a shunt used or not.
The first thing that you should do when getting out your Christmas lights is to check to see if any are dim. If any lights are dim it means it will soon need to be replaced. It is best to do this now while you know where it is and it is not located in some hard to reach place like a bush, tree, or roof.
A great tool that is now available and is very reasonable sells for around $5 is a Hum-tracer. This device will make it easier to find a bad bulb and is well worth the small price for the large service it will provide you over the years, if you have enough lights it can pay for itself in one year easily.
How do you use a Hum-tracer though you ask? It is really easy you plug the lights in and put the Hum-tracer around the wire, then move between each wire. If you do not hear a hum it means that you are either looking at the wrong wire or that that bulb is bad. You should have three wires to know which one to look for test each one to start then follow that line. If all three wires don’t work then you have a bad bulb at the beginning. The way the Hum-tracer works it hums when it detects voltage going through the wire, a bad bulb will stop the voltage.
You can also try the traditional way of checking each and every bulb but this takes a lot more time then it will if you use a Hum-tracer. So when getting out Christmas lights you should first test to see if any lights look like they may go out, then test the bad lights either one by one the old fashioned way or get a Hum-tracer and you can move quickly wire to wire to find the bad bulb. Follow these simple steps and your Christmas light preparation will go much smoother.