Five fast, free and easy fixes for holiday lights

Even before the turkey leftovers run out, millions of American will be unpacking their holiday decorations, hoping to set up light displays bright enough to be seen from the International Space Station.

If instead of blinking lights, you discover your light strings are on the blink, here are five fast and easy ways to get the joy back in the joyous season:

  • Inspect - As you unpack your holiday lights, begin with a visual check of the items that starred in your displays last year. All should bear the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal of approval and be free of broken or cracked light sockets, worn or frayed wires and loose, damaged plugs.
  • Test - Before you hang the light string, test each string to be sure it still works. Even if it was fine when you put it away last year, home improvement gremlins may have set in and caused a bit of mischief.
  • Secure - If the light string isn't working, unplug it and check each bulb to see if it is loose in the socket. Do this by gently pressing each bulb into its socket. Even though lights are often designed to work if a single bulb goes out, they won't work if a bulb is unplugged. Once you have tightened the bulbs, plug in the string back in.
  • Re-fuse - If the string still doesn't work, unplug the light string and check the fuse. Most strings have a fuse built in to the plug. Open remove the fuse and check that it isn't burned out. If it is, replace it. Most light strings are sold have extra fuses taped to the string somewhere in a very small plastic bag.
  • Replace - If you have success with the above techniques but find your short on parts, relegate one of the light strings to salvage status and use those bulbs and fuses to get the rest of your light strings in working order.

Once you are ready-to-glow, take these precautions to ensure safety and spectacular results:

  • Use only outdoor-labeled lighting and extension cords for exterior displays make sure outdoor décor is plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
  • Stick to string limits (three is usually the max that can be connected).
  • Secure outdoor lighting with insulated holders or hooks, and shut down all displays when you're away or asleep.
  • At season's end, dismantle decorations with care (never pull on light strings, which stresses cords) and pack carefully for a tangle-free collection to use next year.

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He delivers home improvement ideas and tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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