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How do Christmas lights stop working? Matt's Memo

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

I inserted the two prongs into the outdoor outlet, anticipating that moment when the multiple strands of Christmas lights would sparkle. I had carefully wrapped them around one of two evergreen bushes that frame our front step. It seemed like such a short time ago I had put the lights away for the winter. They were all in working order. Yet, somehow while simply sitting in a plastic storage bin, one strand or another finds a way to break.

Pre-testing is the key to avoid grave disappointment when the moment arrives to plug in your light strand. You could call it a Cardinal rule of holiday decorating. Never put up a stand of lights in a tree, over a mantle or around a banister without first checking to see whether they're in working order. If you don't pre-test you have no one to blame for the darkness, but yourself.

How do you fix a problem with a failing strand of lights? The first option: jiggle it. Second: wiggle all the bulbs to see if they come back on. Thirdly: exchange one of the fuses with the spares they include in every new box. There's a good chance none of those solutions will work.

I am certain there is a white board in the light company's corporate board room. with company goals for quality assurance. Topping that list: Make Sure All Light Strands Do Not Continue Working. If they all worked forever, the light company would be out of business. If the strands were readily fixable that would also put the light manufacturer and its suppliers would be out of business. They got us. We want to exhibit our holiday spirit through illumination of our homes, yards and Christmas trees. That makes us a slave to cheaply made strands of lights.

The best solution to a broken strand of lights. Throw it out and replace them. I'm not sure what the figure is, but I would guess there's a 15 - 20% failure per year. Even though the lights have done nothing, but sit in a dark box for eleven months.

Prepared with the knowledge that some strands need replacing, plus the mandatory pre-test before stringing. You too can have a positive light experience this holiday season. Add in our typical dose of Central New York snow in December and they help paint a seasonal picture worthy of any Instagram feed.

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