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How to Find the Bad Bulb on the Holiday Lights

The holidays are a magical time of year for many different celebrations. While specific décor may vary depending on the holiday being honored or even specific Christmas traditions, pretty lights seem to always be part of the final look.

When we talk about holiday lights, we typically are referring to string lights with multiple small light bulbs. Just one bad bulb can either change the whole appearance of the decorations or even prevent the rest of the lights from coming on.

Check Your List—Twice!

Before checking individual bulbs when a string of lights won’t operate as expected, there are a few other things to review:

  • Verify that the outlet you are using is working. Either plug something else into that outlet or plug the lights into a different outlet.
  • Make sure you unplug the lights, then feel the strings for any exposed wires—it might be time to toss this strand!
  • Check the cartridge fuse inside of the string lights.
  • Are your lights single circuit? If so, the whole string won’t work due to one bad bulb. Multiple strands might mean only half of the string goes out.

After you have ruled out a non-working outlet, bad wiring, and the cartridge fuse, you’ll need to test the bulbs.

Incandescent Lights

If you have the time, simply feel along the strand and make sure each light bulb is screwed in tightly.

Or, one of the easiest ways to test your old-fashioned Christmas lights for the bad bulb is buying using a Christmas light tester, which can be found at Home Depot, on Amazon, or other places, usually for well under $30 total.

You just hold the tester up to each bulb, see if its light comes on to indicate a working bulb, then move on. When it doesn’t light up, it means the bulb is bad and should be replaced.

Use caution when removing a broken bulb from your string lights. Always unplug the lights first before attempting to remove the broken bulb! Follow these steps:

  1. Unclip the light bulb from the socket on the string. If you have another string, you can use one for a replacement or purchase some replacement bulbs.
  2. If the socket is broken or missing, you’ll need to replace that too. On your spare string, use a pin to separate the socket housing from the wires.
  3. Put the new socket on the string where there was an issue. It can help to watch a video with close-up shots of each part, like this one.
  4. If it was just the bulb, clip it back into the spot where you had the missing or broken bulb.

LED Lights

Did you know that there are now LED Christmas lights? Yes, these energy-efficient bulbs are recommended for all types of use in the home. See this Better Homes & Garden article with more details about the best bulbs to choose.

You can find LED holiday lights anywhere you buy holiday decorations and they come in a variety of colors and styles and sizes. When it comes to replacing a bad or broken bulb, follow the same instructions as above.

How We Can Help with Your Holiday Lights

Installing Christmas and other holiday lights can be a big chore—and even dangerous if you are climbing up on a roof. If you’re concerned about overloading your breaker or causing a power surge, how to safely plug in several strings of lights along with some other festive illuminated decorations, the professionals at Mister Sparky can help.

You may discover that the issue was not a bad bulb, but bad wiring. This will require an experienced professional to troubleshoot the electrical issue and fix it. They can also install additional outlets to ensure a safe holiday for you and your family!

Click here to schedule a visit with a technician today.

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