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December 20, 2022
Christmas Lights in Seattle, WA

Of all the things that can put a damper on your holiday festivities, few are as frustrating as Christmas lights that refuse to work. This is especially true if you’ve already taken the time to hang the lights on your tree or the exterior of your home. If you come across one or more strands of Christmas lights that won’t work, there are a few possible causes behind the problem. Although some of these causes are easy do-it-yourself fixes, others will require the assistance of Brennan Electric. Any time you’re dealing with electricity, it’s important to be careful and get assistance if you don’t feel completely comfortable. Here are a few problems that can keep your Christmas lights from shining brightly.

Loose Bulb

A common culprit behind a non-working light set is a loose bulb. Most modern light sets don’t go out completely when a bulb burns out because of how the sets are wired. However, if a single bulb is loose, the set will stop working because the lack of electrical contact will interrupt the circuit. That’s why Brennan Electric recommends pushing on each bulb on the non-working light strand to make sure all of the bulbs are properly seated in the bulb fixtures. If you use older light sets to decorate your home, there’s a chance that a burned-out bulb could be causing your problem. You can use a bulb tester to test each bulb so that you don’t have to pull out each bulb individually.

Bad Fuse

Another important part of every Christmas light set is the fuses. Fuses in Christmas light sets are designed to prevent the electrical wiring in the set from overheating due to an electrical overload. Overloads occur most often if you have too many light sets connected to each other. All light sets come with instructions specifying how many light sets you can connect together. Don’t exceed this limit, even if it means you need to run another extension cord. Fuses can also go bad if there’s a problem with the associated electrical circuit that’s causing power surges to enter the light set. Finally, if you drop the light set, the fuses can break without any electrical input because the fuses in Christmas light sets are made from glass.

Overloaded Circuit

If you’re trying to outdo Clark Griswold with your Christmas light display, there’s a good chance your lights aren’t working because you’ve overloaded one or more electrical circuits. Most household circuits are rated to handle 15 amps of power. Any higher than that, and the electrical circuit will trip to prevent the electrical wires from overheating. If you’re using Christmas lights with incandescent bulbs, their power draw can add up quickly, causing you to overload a circuit with just a few light strands. That’s why Brennan Electric recommends that you try to use circuits that aren’t powering any other electrical devices to ensure you have plenty of headroom to create the perfect light display.

Damaged Cord

The insulation around the wires in Christmas light sets is very thin. This is done to help make the wires more flexible and because it cuts down on manufacturing costs. While this normally isn’t an issue, Christmas light cords do tend to become damaged far more easily than typical electrical cords. Even a small nick in the insulation can expose the bear wires underneath, leading to a risk of electrical shorts that can put your Christmas lights out of commission. When you first pull your Christmas lights out of storage, make sure to inspect all of the wires to ensure they aren’t damaged. If you find damaged wires, it’s usually best to stop using those light sets to prevent the risk of electrocution. You’ll also want to inspect the wires for damage at the end of the season to see if you’ll need to replace any of the sets before next year.

Importance of Proper Hanging

When talking about damage to Christmas light wires, it’s worth talking about the importance of properly caring for your Christmas lights. Specifically, the importance of proper hanging. When using lights on a Christmas tree, make sure not to hang any ornaments from the wires since the ornament hooks can easily nick the insulation around the wires. Additionally, try to avoid wrapping the lights around the branches too tightly in a way that could strain the electrical connections. If you hang lights outside, only use hangers that are designed specifically for Christmas lights. Other types of hangers could put excess strain on the lights and wires. Finally, don’t leave Christmas lights permanently installed outside because the UV rays from the sun will cause the wire insulation to crack and cause the lights to stop working.

Faulty Switch

Connecting your lights to a switched circuit makes turning them on and off fast and easy. Unfortunately, a switch adds another failure point that could prevent your Christmas lights from working. If you’ve checked the lights themselves and everything seems to be working, Brennan Electric recommends calling an electrician to let them look at your home’s light switches. If the switch is in a heavily used area, the electrical contacts can eventually wear out, preventing the switch from completing the circuit. Just like an electrical circuit can become overloaded, a switch can also become overloaded and overheat, meaning it will need to be replaced before you can use that circuit again.

Loose Plug

To round out the possible causes of faulty Christmas lights, Brennan Electric wants to add the possibility of a loose plug. Even if the prongs on the plug are only slightly out of the outlet, it’s likely that there won’t be the solid metal-to-metal contact required for the lights to illuminate. Since the prongs on Christmas light set plugs tend to be fairly thin, it’s important to make sure that the prongs aren’t bent before you plug them into an outlet or extension cord. If you’re using an outdoor outlet, you’ll also want to inspect the outlet to ensure there is no debris in the outlet that can block the plug. If you do find debris, make sure you call a professional electrician to remove the debris so that you don’t get electrocuted.

Always Read the Box

Since Christmas lights are so ubiquitous, most people disregard the warnings and instructions that accompany Christmas light sets. Unfortunately, not reading these warnings could prove problematic. The instructions contain information about wattage, bulb replacement, proper use and care, and a lot of other helpful details that will help you make the most of your Christmas lights. Don’t accidentally shorten the lifespan of your lights by getting in a hurry when you’re taking the lights out of the box for the first time.

Your Holiday Lighting Experts

At Brennan Electric, we are proud to be able to help our customers make their holidays brighter. That’s why we offer electrical repair, electrical panel replacement, lighting installation, hot tub wiring, generator installation, and much more. For over 35 years, we’ve been proud to serve the Seattle community with safe, reliable service and top-notch professionalism. These qualities are some of the main reasons why we consistently receive five-star customer reviews. To learn more about holiday lighting, contact us at Brennan Electric today.

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