Sunday, November 29, 2009

Illuminate Me

Earlier this weekend we put up the outside Christmas lights. The weather was nice, and Tony recruited the boys to help him on the front side of the house. Before he started, he tested the lights in the family room and then asked the yearly question, "How come the lights were working when we took them down, but they don't work when it's time to use them again?"

Last January we carefully took the strands off the house, wound them around light holders, and put them in the closet under the basement stairs. They should have been out of harm's way there, but as always, one strand wouldn't light this year. Tony spent a bit of time trying to find the offending bulb(s), but in the end he decided it wasn't worth his time. I was on my way to Walgreens, so I bought him a strand to replace the one that wasn't any good.

What do you do with the strands that no longer light up? In the past I would guiltily throw them in the trash, but this year I remembered hearing about an opportunity to recycle them. A bit of research led me to the Website of

I found out that several Wal-Marts in our area were collecting old or unworkable holiday lights for recycling; one of the stores was only a couple of miles from the house. Today Tony and I took our discards and dropped them in the container in the garden center. I was glad to see that the large box meant to hold the discarded lights for recycling was about half full, and I'm wasn't the only one taking advantage of this recycling program.

I know Wal-Mart's motives aren't completely selfless; they're hoping that you buy new lights there. They were really pushing the LED ones. I know that LEDs last longer and use less energy, but I don't want to mix the two light types. I think I'll try to buy new strands for next year when they're on clearance after the holidays. I hope I'll still be able to recycle the old ones!


  1. Have you seen the LED lights that look the same as the traditional outdoor Christmas lights? I'm not crazy about LED - they hurt the eye a these are a great solution!

  2. I have mostly LED lights these days - I still have one strand of the other lights that hasn't broken yet, but otherwise they're all LEDs. (I had two strands until yesterday, when I plugged one in, found out it didn't work, moved my hand and it started working. That didn't seem safe.)

  3. So if you look at them side by side, do LED lights look much different than traditional ones? We use a lot of strands in the front; it would cost A TON to replace them all at the same time.

  4. The ones I have definitely are different. The LED lights are more solid, the LED ones sparkle more. I guess an analogy would be that the LED ones are more like a frosted bulb and the others are more like a clear light bulb. (Does that make sense?) I don't mind the combination - this year I have LED lights on two windows and the non-LED lights on one.

    I have heard that some people (like Sydney) have problems with the LED lights. I doubt anyone would be standing outside your house looking at the lights, but it could be an issue for indoor lights. (They don't bother me at all.)

    The LED lights are expensive. I started buying them when they first came out as a replacement for my non-LED lights. Every year at least one strand of the regular lights seems to die. I haven't had any LED lights die.

  5. I love LED technology and wish I could buy LEDs for my regular indoor lights...but when you're expeted to stare @ them, they bug my eyeballs a bit. They're so intense, which is great for the little walking man on traffic lights, but for Christmas lights, it's a bit strange. Maybe it's just not traditional and my eyes rebel against that?

    The new LED lights are called "full wave LED" - here is a bit of an article on them. Yes, they are expensive, but apparently you save 90% of the electricity costs vs standard lights! Here's a bit of an article with photos:

  6. Shelby-thanks so much for the information.