Troubleshooting LED Christmas Lights

Blurred-out LED Christmas lights.
What You'll Need
What You'll Need

For many families, decorating their home for the holidays is an annual tradition. Many dedicate the extended Thanksgiving weekend solely to hanging their LED Christmas lights. Unfortunately, LED Christmas lights can be temperamental and malfunction from time to time, slamming the brakes on your decorating plans. Before you head to the store for new ones, try out these troubleshooting methods applicable to LED Christmas lights as well as a few helpful tips to make your seasonal decorating run a little smoother.

Before You String Your Christmas Lights

Colorful LED Christmas lights.

Before tasking your family with stringing the lights around the tree or other object in your home, test the lights thoroughly by plugging each strand into a powered outlet and allowing them to burn for at least five to ten minutes. This applies to even brand new lights fresh out of the box. This will help you identify malfunctioning lights before you go through all the trouble of stringing them.

Separate the Good LED Bulbs From the Bad

When you discover a strand of malfunctioning lights—those that are dimly lit, lit intermittently, or not lit at all—separate them from the working strands and move on. String the LED Christmas lights that are working properly, and the strands in which you have the most confidence, in hard to reach areas that are difficult to decorate. This might save you some aggravation and time later on.

Dimly Lit or Burnt Bulbs

White LED Christmas lights against a red background.

Now that you have exhausted your supply of working LED Christmas lights, it is time to address the malfunctioning group. Start with the strands that might include a dimly lit or non-working bulb. Replace the bulbs in question with a new bulb or one borrowed from a working strand. If this does not solve the problem, you could be faced with a faulty or corroded socket or a strand with faulty wiring. While there are steps you might be able to take to restore the strand to working condition, you must ask yourself is it really worth the compromise in safety. Many a house fire has resulted from faulty Christmas decorations.

Replacing a Fuse on Your Christmas Lights

Most brands of LED Christmas light incorporate a fuse in each strand. The fuse is most often located behind an access door on the strand’s plug. To replace the fuse, you must slide the access door open, pop out the tiny fuse, and replace with a new one. It can sometimes prove difficult to slide open the access door on a plug. A slotted screwdriver or butter knife is sometimes necessary to avoid breaking a fingernail. Always make sure your lights are unplugged before attempting this.

Finding a Faulty Bulb

It is not uncommon for a complete strand to not illuminate due to one faulty bulb. To troubleshoot in this scenario, start by swapping the first bulb in the strand with a new bulb, preferably one you know works, such as a borrowed bulb from a working strand of lights. If the strand lights, great, you have solved the problem. If not, you must remove the new bulb, plug in the original bulb and continue to the second socket. Repeat this step until you have found the burnt bulb or reached the end of the strand.

Safety Tips

The troubleshooting methods mentioned above are basic in nature. However, extreme caution should always be used when decorating with electric lights and working with electricity.

If you notice a funny smell, see sparks, or feel excessive heat in the plug ends or wiring, discard the strand of lights.

Never modify a strand of lights or make excessive wiring repairs as that could promote a fire hazard or even cause injury or death due to electric shock.

Never use interior lights for exterior decoration. Exterior lights are specifically graded for exposure to weather, harsh sun, and more while interior lights may become damaged easily if left outside.