The changing landscape of Christmas lights

Record Editorial

I wrote an editorial about 10 years ago praising the use of C9 lights for lighting up the outside of my house. Since then, many different kind of lights have come and gone. Icicle lights have been the craze for awhile but so many times they end up in the gutter, soaking in water and out of sight. It’s not like we don’t get wind in the Valley, especially on the local hillsides.

But a new breed of light is emerging and this was the year to try them out. But first a bit of history. I used to be the Chevy Chase of our cul-de-sac. The neighbor put up lights, I put up more. They changed their presentation, I added lights and changed ours. It was a family affair with the kids begrudgingly helping by testing strands and replacing burned out lights.

I went so far as to purposely unscrew my neighbors’ bulbs a few years ago, just so one side of the cul-de-sac was brighter than the other. Of course she paid me back many times, so don’t feel sorry for my neighbors.

I have at least 50 strands of C9 bulbs at my disposal and yes, I may have occasionally cut off the standard, fused plug, opting for a heavy duty, non-fused plug instead. This gave me the ability to run 10 strands off of a single household outlet. It wasn’t always the safest, but we only had the lights on when we were home and we always had a fire extinguisher close at hand. It was a family adventure to see how fast we could get the power meter to turn. They put some pretty good bearings in those meters.

It’s obvious I am not the “greenest” person in the world, but last year we decided to try the new LED lights on our Christmas tree. They work great and actually provide a more visible glow on the tree than the standard twinkle lights.

Of course, I also miss the C7 lit Christmas tree that we grew up with. You know the ones where if the tinsel touched the bulb it melted. In fact, half the fun of those old bulbs was melting ornaments or tinsel whenever our parents weren’t around. By the time the tree was ready to be thrown away it was only stuck-together branches as it scraped its way out of the front door and into the front yard, where it stayed for at least a week. Some people will remember other types of lights, like those with water that percolated from the heat of the bulb. These are very cool with a newer version now available.

But I digress, back to the LED lights. Of course, with the kids at college it took us longer to get the tree up this year. It isn’t quite the same as having kids around. I did get the outside lights up (by myself) this year, but limited the strands to about 10. As I was making a pass at the hardware store, I saw some C9 sized LED bulbs and figured they were worth a shot. Three strands, not exactly cheap but the diagram on the box said I would save the cost of the strands by having them use less electricity. And after 50 years it was a break-even proposition, so what the heck. I plastered them up on the side of my house, excited with each “k-chunk” of the staple gun.

After I was finished, I flipped them on, checked for smoke and ran to the cul-de-sac to admire my work. Hmm, not so bright, but I figured it was still daylight so not a good time to check my progress.

I packed up the ladders, extra bulbs and a few extra strands and threw them in the garage, then went inside to wait for it to get dark. Finally, I ran back outside after dinner, but was again disappointed with the look. The big C9 LEDs are a dud. There is no way to get a neon tan from LEDs on the outside of your house so take my advice, stick with tried and proven. When lighting the outside of your house, forget the new stuff. Stick with the old-fashioned C9 bulbs with lots of strands and maybe a few blinkers. LEDs, inflatable snowballs and icicle lights are hoaky. Go for the gusto.

By the way, tip me well when I am delivering your pizza. I have to pay my electric bill.