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Juliecc913 11-29-2002 01:36 PM

Christmas Lights
In our attempt to be frugal, my husband and I save our mini XMAS light strands from year to year and attempt to reuse them. We put them in the storage box and they work, we take them out and most of them don't! It is so frustrating. DH just spend two hours trying to make the darn things work with extra bulbs and finally just gave up and went to the hardware store to buy more mini lights.

The first strand out of the box lit up and then seconds (maybe 5) later they stopped. He is sooooo frustrated. So, I've got two questions:

1. Do any of you reuse lights year to year and do they work?

2. Any idea what I could do with the little bulbs and the strands for that matter of the lights that don't work?


Shawn 11-30-2002 02:42 AM

We have been using the same lights for 7 years now. This is the first year I had to replace a few.

I am assuming that we are talking about regluar xmas lights (the little clear ones and not the bulb-y type).

I always keep one strand of half working lights so if a light bulb does blow out, I can use that strand and take out a light to replace it. This strand only has bulbs that DO work in it and is NEVER plugged in.

Juliecc913 11-30-2002 04:17 PM


I relayed this to my husband and he said "I must be cursed". Anyway he wonders how you store them and if, by chance, you remember what brand you are using. These are not the screw in bulby type. Thanks.

gwtw-mom 12-03-2002 05:59 AM

We also have a trash set that has only working lights on it. When a bulb goes out on our strands that we use, we just exchange it with one of the working ones.

We bought our bulbs at Wal-Mart about 9 years ago. We also bought a box that came with cardboard dividers that we wrap the bulbs around each year. This was strictly a seasonal item and I haven't seen the boxes since that time, but you could probably set up your own system similar to that one.

Our problem is those darn blinker bulbs. It seems like we are constantly buying those each year.

Leigh 12-03-2002 06:12 AM

Christmas lights
It has never even occurred to me to throw away Christmas lights and buy new ones every year. Each year, before I start putting up the Christmas decorations, I gather all the lights and test them by plugging them in.

I make a pile of the ones that work fine, and one of the ones that are having problems. I sit and figure out what the problem is, i check the fuses first if the strand has them, they are the little tube things that are in the plug on most lights. Then, I take a bulb that i know works, and go down the strand replacing it to see if there is a bulb that is burnt out.

Most lights now, if there is one bulb burned out, it doesnt cause the whole strand to be out. Only if a bulb is actually missing will the whole strand be out. I can usually get all the strands working. Occasionally, on the strands that are outside, a rabbit or something will chew through, those have to be thrown away. I hardly ever have to pitch a strand of lights though. Of course before I throw away a strand of lights, I take out the working bulbs and the fuses to put in my ziploc back of "spare parts" It takes a little time and patience, but its worth the effort. I still buy a couple of strands every year, but i buy more than i pitch. I have lots and lots of lights! :-D The lights are one of my favorite things about Christmastime.

Then, when I take the lights down, I wind them up into neat bundles, so I dont have a tangled mess next year and put them in the box of Christmas decorations for next year. Hope this helps some.


fish3711 12-03-2002 07:35 AM

Christmas Lights
I am pretty much repeating what most have already posted. I have never thrown out Christmas lights either. We reuse the same ones year after year. Sometimes we buy new ones if we like the style but we have so many lights we are actually giving some away to friends this year. When we are done with the lights we wrap them up neatly and store them away in our attic. We we put up lights we take out each set and plug them in to see if they work. Then if they dont my husband will find the bad bulb and replace it with another one. We have alot of lights, my husband has a thing about liking to decorate in a big way....that's another story. I would just say to make sure you wrap them up good and store them safely where they are not getting crushed. I cant imagine why they never work, somebodys husband on this board said bad luck and i have to And someone else said to save a strand that doesnt work and use the bulbs for extra which is an excellent idea. We have a container that has extra bulbs of all kinds in it from all different strands. Good Luck!

sharlibird 12-03-2002 08:27 AM

Of course, we save the lights...I even inherited three sets from my grandmother 7 years ago when she passed away. (only 1 set didn't work). I have lights that I bought over 14 years ago that still work (by replacing a few burnt out ones). After Christmas, I always make sure to buy a few of the packages of "extra" lights that Kmart & Walmart sell (on clearance!) to keep "just in case" for next year.

But then, I was blessed several years ago, when I had to purchase extra lights (for a bigger tree). They came with a plastic insert (kinda' shaped like an H) that I have used for storage of all my lights which are intact. I just wrap them around it every year...keeps them from getting tangled like they used to. Of course, I have to remember to wind them around "backwards" (plug-in side last) so that I can also use the packaging to "pass" them string around the tree...LOL, that's the one problem I have.

Sue L. 12-03-2002 09:25 AM

Small Non-working Christmas Lights
If you have a string that is absolutely unusuable, you might try using the wire to craft fabric Christmas swags. :)

LJsmom 12-03-2002 10:38 AM

Oh Julie, throw the non-working strands out right away. There may be a short in the wire and a fire can start. Of course if there only is a few bulbs out replacing them is the way to go. I always pull the working bulbs off a bad strand and keep them separate. Why save a whole strand-each year you have to retest the whole thing and you will save on storage space too.

To help with holiday expenses I decorate other peoples Christmas trees, we have seen almost everything. The worst lights I've found so far are from Toys R Us. They started crackling right out of the box and felt hot, then 1/2 of them didn't even light up. Told the owner to buy all new lights or we weren't going to do her tree. She was out to Target in a few minutes!
Be careful too, certain types of lights can only have so many put "end to end" before they may begin to short out.

Another way to store them after the season (so they don't tangle) is to wrap them around old paper towel tubes.

Happy Lighting!!!

vcudnik 12-03-2002 02:27 PM

My hubby is in charge of the lights; I bought him a light tester (kmart, walmart & target) for $5 or $10. Saves a TON of time. The older sets wouldn't work if one light was out, but the ones they've been selling for the past 8 years or so don't have that problem (just if a bulb is MISSING). Most likely its the fuses. There's usually a little "door" in the plug where they go. As long as you don't have a really off-brand they should be easy & inexpensive to replace.

Also, as frugal as I am, I won't spend more than 15 minute trying to troubleshoot a $5 strand of lights--the big icicle light strands, well that's another story.

We also have some strands that are over 15 years old. Talk about tradition! (Hubby likes to do the lights up in a BIG way here, too! Must be a guy thing.)

Juliecc913 12-03-2002 03:24 PM

I think that that one of my questions also basically was, when does it become stupid to be so frugal to spend two hours for $5.00 strands of lights? Thanks for pointing out that issue when I didn't even see it but felt it. The poor guy was so frustrated and then to buy the new strand and have it work for all of 5 seconds!.

Anyway, you all have give me several good ideas on how to do things and I appreciate it. Thanks.

kimmyo 12-04-2002 07:22 AM

We reuse our lights every year. Some of the sets we have, have a fuse in the plug that can go bad. You will know if the lights you buy have a fuse because they come with extra bulbs and extra fuses. The fuses are very easy to change. You just pop the little top on the plug open pull out the old fuse and pop in a new one.:)

emajmom 12-05-2002 08:09 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I have a craft that i use little lights with......

I take a rose bowl /Ivy bowl ( get them at the dollar store) and fill it with potourri, meanwhile intertwining the potpourri with the xmas lights.....
Make sure the the plug end is sticking out of the top ot the rose bowl.
Cover the top with a doilie and wrap an elastic around to keep it in place.
Decorate (hide) elastic with ribbons and flowers....etc.....
Plug in the light and it heats up the potpourri and gives your house a wonderful smell.

Juliecc913 12-05-2002 02:13 PM

How pretty. What a sweet idea. Thanks.

darilynk 12-06-2002 11:22 AM

Christmas Lights
I too have Christmas lights from 15+ years ago. Each year I check the strands as has already been described, checking the bulbs and fuses. Years ago I found a small, 9 volt battery operated light tester. It was in the same area as the exra bulbs. It has been invaluable. There are a few things that I didn't see above. One is that these lights have two copper wires that fit into the holder. Sometimes these wires need to be bent out gently in order to form a better contact. Next is to make sure you are getting the right volts when you buy replacement bulbs. They may need a different volt depending on the light string you are putting them in. I have a faux tree that I store in two large green containers made for that use. (Kmart, Target, etc. have these on sale just before and right after the holiday.) I always gather the strings and put them in a plastic bag, then put them on top of the tree branches in the tote, along with any extension cords, twist ties, etc. that I need to put up the tree. I include the battery tester and replacements too. This makes it simple when putting up the tree the following year.

Maybe the most important thing in using old strings is to honor our environment and teach our children that money is not more important than limiting the amount of garbage we create. I know it is easier and less frustrating to buy new, and if there is any question of safety it is necessary to throw out an old string. I do keep the spent bulbs and make earrings and pins out of them.

Blessed Holidays to you all.

bonnie50 12-06-2002 07:17 PM


Originally posted by emajmom
I have a craft that i use little lights with......

I take a rose bowl /Ivy bowl ( get them at the dollar store) and fill it with potourri, meanwhile intertwining the potpourri with the xmas lights.....
Make sure the the plug end is sticking out of the top ot the rose bowl.
Cover the top with a doilie and wrap an elastic around to keep it in place.
Decorate (hide) elastic with ribbons and flowers....etc.....
Plug in the light and it heats up the potpourri and gives your house a wonderful smell.

emagmom,i have one just like that,on my counter in the kitchen,and they smell so good,i have to other vases like that but will go and get the lights and maybe make a couple more,those are very pretty.

hapiladi 12-07-2002 04:24 AM

Christmas Lights
This is in reply to Sue L. She suggested making a cloth swag from old Christmas light strands. Could you please tell me how to do that? It sounds interesting and since I love to try new crafts, this might be right up my alley. Now you got me thinking, Sue, of other uses for the old strands.
Personally, I hate to throw anything away, and try to recycle what I can.
As for our lights, there is not many that end up getting thrown away, as we sit and work with each strand before we try to use it, by plugging in and checking first, the fuse and then, by checking out each bulb. Sometimes this can cause my DH to jump up and down ^^ in frustration; so I am certainly going to invest in a bulb tester for sure this year!
A blessed Christmas season to all, with less stress and lots of happy family memories for next year!

Sue L. 12-07-2002 09:11 AM

Rag Swags

Just tear or cut strips of fabric in whatever pattern fits the occasion you are making the swag for (Christmas plaids are nice) 1-1/2" wide and 12" long. You can have some strips 1-1/4" wide for variation. Tie the strips on the light string until it is as long as you want it. Weave one of the shorter (20 bulb) light strings in among the rag strips. Attach whatever decorations you want. I have one with snowmen heads and a snowflake at each end. Loop a wire in each end to hang by and tada you have a swag. They really turn out beautiful.

Sue L.

benmormommy 12-09-2002 01:02 PM

We also reuse our lights from year to year. Every single year putting the lights on our artificial tree we ended up frustrated and exhausted before we even started to decorate the tree. I like to wrap each and every branch one by one to get a very bright tree. Our tree comes apart into 3 large sections. Two years ago we wrapped each section of the tree individually so that at the end of the season we can easily unplug the lights, wrap the section in garbage bags and then a large tree disposal bag and store it in the attic until next Christmas. I have 14 strands of lights on my 7.5 foot tree and it took me about 20 minutes to have my tree set up and lit from the time I got it out this year.

kcarskc 12-10-2002 03:27 AM

Xmas lights.
I have found that the best way to store lights it's what I learned from my dad years ago. Hold onto the last light bulb of the strand in one hand, then skip the next one, put the third one in your hand and skip the fourth and so on. When you get done, you have all the bulbs (lights) at two different ends and the extra cord can be used to wrap around and tie off. Then just store them in ziploc bags labeled as to where they are used, such as mantle lights, banister and so on. It drives me crazy to see people spending hours untangling lights! Hope this helps.
Happy lighting!

Juliecc913 12-10-2002 12:06 PM

Interesting, I'll try that this year. Aren't dad's smart?:)

DisneyDel 10-30-2004 10:50 AM

When our lights are taken down for the season DH will take a piece of sturdy cardboard about 12" x 24" and he wraps the lights around them before storing them in a box with newspaper between each "card" of lights.

He marks the outside of the box 'LIGHTS' in marker and always makes sure to store them on the top of other boxes.

The next year they are still in working order so I guess his system works! :clapp:

Sure beats having to budget money for new lights every year!

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