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kat1370

Help with pre-lit tree mini-light burn out

Please bear with me as this may be a lengthy post. I want to make sure to clearly express the facts.

This is the 5th year using my pre-lit tree. It's nothing special, just your regular WallyWorld "Holiday Time" pre-lit tree. While I've had a bulb burn out here and there, this year I have a couple random sections burnt out. I've done some research and learned that this seems to be one of those parallel/series situations. There are 3 sections to the tree and each seems to have 3 strings of lights connected in this manner. I've also done research on the actual problem I'm having which led me here. Let me explain what I've done so far:

  • I've started with the very top section of the tree. I removed it, disconnected the star (it is also a lighted decoration that I connect into the tree lights), and plugged it directly into an extension cord - same result.
  • I checked the fuses in every location I could find. None are obviously burned out. I have not replaced any fuses.
  • The white tags on each string end state the following: 120V, 60Hz, 0.34A, 40.8W. It also states "Use 2.5 volt, 0.43 watt lamps only."
  • I purchased some 2.5v replacement bulbs but there is no wattage listed. Also no designation as to whether they are energy savers or super brights. NOTE: these are the same bulbs I used to replace random burnt out bulbs last year with no obvious issues
  • I found the end of the string and began replacing bulbs one by one. It didn't seem to be having any impact so I backtracked. I removed a known good bulb from the known good string. Naturally, the good string went dark. I went back to the beginning of the bad string and started over. I removed the first bulb from the bad string and plugged it into the good string. While the bulb didn't light, the shunt was obviously working properly as the good string lit up with that bad bulb plugged in.
  • Logic tells me that it isn't a problem with the socket so I replaced each bad bulb with a new one. I happened to notice over time, upon closer inspection, that nearly EVERY bulb had those burn marks inside even though the filament appeared to still be intact. As I worked my way through the bad string bulb by bulb, the string still didn't light, nor did any individual bulb. There were a couple of good bulbs in that bad string so I left them as is.
  • Near the middle of the string, after replacing one of the bulbs, THE DEAD STRING FINALLY LIT UP! (only the bulbs that I had already replaced) YAYYYY! (wait for it...)
  • The string lit up quite brightly. I was too close to notice but my daughter was a few feet away and asked why those lights looked different. Just that string was much brighter. My hand happened to brush against a bulb (while I was doing my happy dance) and I noticed it was HOT. Then I noticed the smell...like something burning. Just as I was about to unplug the string...THE ENTIRE STRING WENT DARK. Bummer...WTH???
  • I went back to the beginning of the bad string and don'tcha know...ALL of those buggers had the burn marks inside again. DAMMIT, JIM!!!

 

SO...according to the research I've done here, I believe these to be the facts:

The top of the tree, at least, has 3 strings of approximately 35 lights, connected in series/parallel. I did the math... .43w / 120V = .003583. There are 7 "branch clusters" that are dark and one of them has 5 bulbs, so it makes sense. I've learned about the 2 different kinds of bulbs but am unable to find any specifically labeled as such. There is no documentation for the tree itself to tell me if it is energy saving or super bright. I am also unable to find any bulbs that specifically state wattage. The bulbs I purchased ONLY state 2.5v with no other description. That being said...as I mentioned above, I have used these bulbs to replace random burned out bulbs with no obvious problems. It SEEMS like they work.

How am I supposed to know if I have the proper replacement bulbs?

Is it possible that the random bulbs I've replaced have caused the strings in question to go dark because they're actually the wrong bulbs?

Do I need to simply replace ALL of the bulbs in this string with NO POWER connected?

Do I have a short in the wiring somewhere? I would think that if I did, just a simple wiggle/tighten would have caused them to flicker. Nothing like that happened on my initial inspection.

I'm at a loss as to what to do next. I don't want to painstakingly replace 35 bulbs only to have them burn out in a flash within 2 minutes...again. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I don't have a problem fixing this on my own, I just need to know what direction to go in. I don't want to waste time and money with continued trial and error. Maybe it just simply can't be fixed. If so, I'll strategically hang my ornaments to disguise the dark areas and look for a new tree once the post-holiday sales hit.

Thanks in advance to all. If you need any other info just let me know.

 

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I would replace the tree, and don't use on of the garge prelit ones....

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I bought a Light Keeper Pro (http://lightkeeperpro.com) to troubleshoot incandescent light strings - it really helps and makes things easier.  I've seen these devices sold at local hardware stores and "big box" stores.  That being said, trying to troubleshoot a prelit tree can be a pain!  The light keeper can light individual bulbs (so you know that they are good) and it can also send a pulse thru the string to short any open shunts.  There are videos on the website on how to use it.

Your obvious problem is the replacement bulbs; either the tag on the lights is wrong or the replacements you bought wrong (most likely).  I've gone all LED, but I see more incandescents stating they are "low power" or "power saving" - this might be another reason for your issues.  That being said, (assuming the tags are correct) it does state the voltage (2.5 volt) and power (0.43 watt) so that should take in account any "power saving" design.  Did you try finding replacement bulbs at Walmart?  You'd think that they sell them there (or online).

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I fixed three full sections that were out on my tree this year. Light keeper pro saved my tree. Get one and or watch the how to videos and the light keeper web page. 

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Yes I use the lightkeeper pro as well, it is a great investment.  Usually with a few clicks, it will at least light up your string and then you can see which are burnt out.  Replace all the burnt ones and it should be fine.  But having said that, I did also have trouble with my indoor tree and ended up buying a new one with leds after all.  But all is not lost, I am using the old "indoor" tree outside as part of my yard display.

another tip for replacing incandescent mini lights: dont waste your money buying replacement bulbs in small packages like 5 or 10 for a dollar or 2.  Instead, buy yourself a mini light strand of 100, usually for about $8.  The bulbs are easy to pull out and will work when inserted into the socket of your new set.

 

Roger

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I bought a 6-ft tree a walmart for $5 (it was a display, no box). None of the lights worked. I cut them all off of the branches and put new lights on it. LED lights on trees look crappy. I use incandescent for almost everything. I just leave the lights on that tree and sit it in the basement when not in use. One of the light strings went bad this year, so I just pulled them off and put another string on. Easy. 

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When the dead string lit, was it half the string or all of it?  If it was half, you're sending too much power to those that are lit.   That's why they were bright then blew.

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When more than a few of the bulbs in a string are out, the remaining bulbs get the extra current and burn brighter, which means they will burn out more quickly.  They get hot and will all go out as yours did.  It appears they all go at once but actually they go one by one, but it happens in a flash.  It's the cascade effect.  If you're lucky, a shunt will fail and save the remaining bulbs.   I use a dimmer to cut the brightness about half when trouble shooting like you were.  That way even if half the bulbs are bad, they still aren't overpowered when you do get them to light and you can continue replacing bulbs without them overheating.

IMHO the replacement bulbs you're using are probably fine, since they look ok when only replacing one on a good string.  The Lightkeeper is a great tool.  Get one after xmas on sale for $5.  Saves a lot of time.

BTW one reason I resist buying a pre-lit tree is just what you're going through.

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The pre lit trees are the hardest to troubleshoot.  I have 5 of them, what a PIA but i like them.  I use a regular voltage tester, like the Greenlee at the big box stores for all my testing..  Basically you just have to start some place and try and try until you find it.  There is a nack to them. Just start replacing them in an orderly fashion.  If you find one that is a possible, either set it aside or try it in one of the sections that work.  Its just a PIA.....

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I bought 3 4 footers pre-lit at the after christmas sale at the local big lots for 3 dollars each.  Hate multi color lights and the pr-lit were all that was available - cut them all off and put on clear strands. 

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17 minutes ago, AZVillager said:

I bought 3 4 footers pre-lit at the after christmas sale at the local big lots for 3 dollars each.  Hate multi color lights and the pr-lit were all that was available - cut them all off and put on clear strands. 

Save the bulbs and info.  Folks will be looking for them if you dont have use.

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