The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

11:39am on Thursday, 6th January, 2005:

Fairy Lights


Today's being 12th Night, I took down our Christmas decorations.

Our lights have been up for 3 weeks. We have 5 sets of them, as follows:

  1. 20 lights with flowery shades. These worked fine the whole time.

  2. 20 lights with no shades. These worked fine the whole time.

  3. 20 lights with bell-shaped shades that are otherwise identical to the shadeless ones. These kept burning out. One here, another there, at odd times every day, but it didn't matter because I had plenty of spare bulbs until wham! Seven bulbs went all at once and cleaned me out. Next day, another three went, but I bought more spares and replaced them. Surely that should be it? I'd replaced pretty well every bulb over the course of two weeks. No: it stopped working again, and again, until I ran out of spares and gave up. I checked every bulb just now and there were 4 duds. Consequently, I've thrown the lot out. I've no idea why they decided to rebel — I checked out the circuits with my multimeter and everything looked fine. Maybe it was the location, or perhaps the bell shape retained heat or something. Next year, the shadeless bulbs will be taking over their prime spot round the living room door...

  4. 200 red outdoor lights. At any one time, a quarter of these are not working, however the particular quarter that isn't working is unpredictable. Sometimes it's at one end, sometimes the other, sometimes the middle. I had to bunch them all together and put them in the window inside so whichever strip decided to have the day off would not make the whole ensemble look lazy.

  5. 40 outdoor lights. This was their second year, but we had trouble with them last time so I checked all the circuits before exposing them to the elements. There were a few loose connections, which I sorted out, then I carefully put them up above the garage door. They didn't work. OK, so I checked the bulbs individually again and discovered that two of them had died between my testing them inside and erecting them outside. I fixed these, and got six spares in case any more went. Those spares lasted a whole week, after which I got another six, which lasted another week. Especially annoying with these lights is that when one bulb goes, a whole strip of 10 fails to light. Luckily, I always know which bulb from the 10 is the one that's dead — it's the last one I try... It doesn't end there, either: when one strip goes, that means the other three strips are getting a third of the power coming in rather than just a quarter of it, which encourages them to blow, too. When I took the lights down, only the first 10 bulbs were doing their job.

I'd accuse B&Q of deliberately selling people dodgy lights so they could rake in money on replacement bulbs, but when I went there for supplies I found they didn't have any for my sets. I got them from Asda instead.

My mother keeps her fairy lights up the whole year. They've been in her hallway since about 1990. They always work when she switches them on (which she does at all times of the year, not just Christmas) and she never has any bulbs die on her. This is probably just as well, given that they don't make the little screw-in bulbs her set uses any more. She must have softer electricity than we do.

Referenced by Fairy Lights Revisited.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).