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    ColumbineLights
Most of what is here is old (but still valid)
at this point in time, I'm no longer updating
these sections, but am keeping them in place
for historical purposes.

This is where a you may be able to find the answer to some questions

the following list was compiled form questions i've received in e-mail,
seen posted elsewhere on the net, or just thought of due to problems i've
had
I can NOT be held responsible for any problems resulting from the use or
misuse of this info



The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q:
How many mini lights can i plug into one outlet.
A:
it depends on the rating of the circuit breaker controlling that outlet
and how many other devices are on the same circuit
Most 100 bulb mini sets take around .34 amps... so 3 sets of 100 is
about 1 amp. my recommendation is do not use a circuit to it's full
capacity... try not to go over 75% of the rating, or if your house is old
enough to have fuses instead of circuit breakers or aluminum wiring don't
go over 50% - its not worth risking a fire just to have some lights on.
lets say for example you have a circuit rated at 20 amps:
..... 20 amp circuit
... - 75%
---------
... = 15 amps max load
you have 15 amps to work with. if there's nothing else on that circuit,
you can put 45 sets of 100 on it but there's a good chance there's more.
the best way to find out is to simply turn off the breaker that controls
the outlet you wish to use.
so lets continue this example saying more devices are on the circuit
(following is example only - look on back of actual device for rating)
.......... 15 amps max load
TV....... - 2
VCR........ -.5
Shoplight - 1
Radio...... -.5
-------------
.......... 11 amps available
in this example you can connect 33 sets of 100
Q:
How many sets of mini lights can i connect together
A:
look at the box the set came in (or on the tag near the set's plug),
On most sets it will say "do not connect more than 3 sets" no matter
how many bulbs are in the set... to be fully safe you should follow
those directions that came with it.
...but you may be able to exceed what the say...
if you live where its cold you can probably connect 4 sets of 100.
note that most 100 bulb sets have 2 groups of 50 bulbs, so a set of
50 is just half of 100, there should be no problems with connecting
6 sets
if you need to go a long distance, the best way to do it is to run
a extension cord to the center of it then string out both ways from
there, this is better than overloading sets
note if you really need to connect allot of lights, some stores sell
sets of 200 'heavy duty' or 'commercial grade' lights that allow
connecting 6 sets - for a total of 1200
Q:
I do a somewhat large display at Christmas, and a large portion of
the lights flash all together. This causes a slight, but noticeable
dimming of the entire house. So I was wondering is this normal?
A:
People i've asked about this (including the power company) say this
is really not normal...
non the less it happens, and there's probably not much you can do
about it.
if you have this problem, try e-mailing your power company and see
what they recommend
Q:
Why does blinking allot of light sets cause this dimming of the entire
house, not just the one circuit the lights are on?
A:
when a bulb is off it has a low resistance, once it heats up the
resistance goes up...this takes well under a second time. but for that
brief period of time the lights are drawing more current.
this causes a slight drop in voltage in the line leading into the house.
the root cause of this may be because the transformer for your house or
the line leading form it to the house is under-powered, over loaded or
maybe even defective/damaged.

If this is highly noticeable, do not run your computer (or other
electronics) while the lights are on or flash smaller amounts.
Q:
where can i find 6v bulbs?
-or-
where can i find 12v bulbs?
A:
in both cases (in the US) try Target or Walmart... but be aware that
these higher voltage bulbs usually sell out faster due to the fact
that stores get less in than the standard 2.5v bulbs
Q:
where can i find Orange mini bulbs
A:
the Halloween aisle... but note they will be solid orange instead of
clear orange
Q:
I need a set of miniature lights with 74 bulbs. Is it possible to
remove 26 lights from a string of 100 lights?
A:
with many of the older (1980's or before) sets you could do this
because 35 & 50 lightsets used the same bulbs (100 is usually just
2 50's together).. in that case you'd just remove 13 sockets from
each section.
with newer sets the 35's & 50's/100's use different voltage bulbs..
you can't remove more than 2 or 3 from each set of 50 or you'll blow
the entire set. but you can add bulbs with no risk of blowing bulbs.
so in this example of 74 bulbs needed, just get 2 sets of 35 and add
2 sockets to each
see 'modifying lights' for how to do this
Q:
I have a 140 bulb chase light set (35 per strand, 4 strands). I want to
reduce the number of total bulbs in the set to 40, 10 per strand. Can I
do this?
A:
It can be done, but you'd have to replace all the remaining bulbs..
i am planning to add a new section to my page for shortening sets in the
future, because this question has come up a number of times
Q:
I would like to make custom-length C7 (or C9) sets for runs along
rooflines, etc... can i just cut the wire and add a female plug to
the end?
A:
Yes! unlike mini lights C7/C9 sets can be shortened to any length
because each bulb is 120volts and operates independent of the others
but before you cut note:
adding a female plug at the end of a set is no problem... but when
adding a male plug to the beginning of the remaining portion, it
should have a fuse of the same (or less) rating as the one fuse in
the original set.
Q:
when i put up icicle lights only part of the set lights. how can i
fix this and help prevent it

A:
before even bringing the sets outside to put up, test them as it'll
be allot easier to fix any non working ones on the floor rather than
on the roof (or even worse on a ladder)
while putting up, keep the lights on. this seems to reduce problems,
and if there is one you'll know about where happened.
to fix non-lighting sets see the 'fixing lights' section

another suggestion: keep a spare set around, its probably easier to swap out a
entire set should all or part of it go out after being put up, rather than trying
to fix it while its up
Q:
Do you have any tips for getting icicle lights to straighten out? No matter
how long I let them hang, they never do.
A:
Remove the set from any cardboard box or plastic bag its in (note if its a
new set and is in a flat plastic holder leave it in that) then plug it in
and sit for 15 minutes or so.. this will make the wire more flexible. then
gently pull each icicle straight. while putting sets up keep them plugged in
also leave additional sets plugged in and on the sunny side of the roof.
Q:
How can i keep my icicle from blowing fuses and popping the breaker???... I
try not to sting more than 3 or 4 sets of lights together but i still blow
fuses. I see other houses with tons of light so i know there must be a way
that i can stop the problem and even add more lights to my house.
A:
see the first question in this list!
but as a additional note specifically related to icicle lights... if you
are having problems and nothing is overloaded: are these lights form the
first generation (ie: first year or 2 they were made?) if yes, you should
discontinue use of these sets.. many of the early sets were recalled
because they were causing short-circuits and fires
Q:
I would like to decorate my car with mini Christmas lights to use in our
local Christmas Parade. I plan to use 3 strings of 100 lights

What size inverter should I buy? Is there any way I can connect these
directly to the car battery and not use a inverter?
A:
most sets of 100 mini lights take about .34 amps (40 watts) of power.
it should say exactly how much on the set or box it came in..
but lets say its a standard set here.. 3 sets of 100 is 1 amp (or 120
watts) you will need a inverter that will handle at least 150 watts
continuous power (ignore anything that says just 'max' or 'peak' power
as that is meant for just a very short period of time - it needs to
be continuous power)
you could also re-wire the sets to run off 12volts so they could be
directly connected but i would not recommend doing it because it would
be allot of work

this pertains to sets in countries that use 220v mains power. unlike those
sets in the US & Canada that connect directly to the 120v mains, these sets
use a transformer to convert the 220v down to (usually) 24v.
Q:
My AC Adapter has failed. How can I replace it? Everyone tells me it's not
possible and I'll have to buy a whole new set of lights.
A:
What people are telling you is simply not correct! you can replace the
transformer. Just make sure that the output voltage rating is equivalent to the
original. The output current rating (amps) on the new transformer should be the
same (or even better if its higher)
Q:
My outdoor receptacles are GFI circuits with plastic covers. When we get heavy
rain the GFI circuits blow. The receptacles are dry but the lights are wet as
they are out in the rain. Do you have a recommendation on how to deal with this
problem?
A:
GFI's are designed to prevent you from getting shocked they work by sensing current
that's flowing out of the hot but not back into the neutral then they cut the power
to help reduce this problem try to keep the ends of all extension cords as well as
all sets (the whole set) from contacting the ground or metal items such as a fence
that also make ground contact
Q:
Traditionally, in America, when should outdoor Christmas lights/decorations be
turned off/taken down?
A:
Traditionally i can't say... but i'd say it depends where you live. in my area
most people turn off by the first weekend after New Years day... but it may be a
while before taking down due to the fact that its cold and roof may be icy in
January
Q:
I'm looking for light sets with fade proof/resistant bulbs. The sunlight causes
colored mini-light sets I currently use to fade.
A:
I've never seen one. the only thing that would come close is LED lights - the
colors will not fade because the color you see is generated by lighting a gas
inside the LED... The LED lights made these days are still expensive, and the
quality is poor so i simply can't recommend them
Q:
Do you know of anything that I could buy that would allow me to connect
Christmas lights to my stereo and have the tree blink to the beat of the
music?
A:
its called a 'color organ' or 'sound to light' there's a schematic of one
that you can build on my page.
if you do buy a completed unit from somewhere, make sure that it uses a
microphone to pick up the sound (does not connect directly to stereo) and
that it uses Triacs (not SCRs) to flash the lights
Q:
Why is the end of a group of sets dimmer than the beginning (and all the sets
are the same type)?
A:
This is caused by resistance in the wires and is called 'line loss' or 'voltage
drop'. The longer the run of lights, and the more overloaded it is, the dimmer
the last set will be.
Q:
How do i keep Squirrels (or some other animal) form chewing my lights?
A:
I don't know a good way to take care of this one, except to say you must 'get
rid of' the problem...
meaning leave a set of set of lights (plugged into a non-GFCI outlet) near the
ground & get the ground wet where the thing will find it then .. bzzzzt
- or maybe attach a peanut to a live wire for it
- or go buy a 'rat zapper' off ebay
- or get a bb-gun
- maybe rat poison?
note i haven't tried any of these.....yet
Q:
Why are some sets dimmer than others?
A:
Some sets use lower wattage bulbs, they aren't quit as bright, but you can
connect more sets
Q:
Why does the fuse on my C7 lights blow often, and the set is not overloaded?
A:
some C7 lights have a design flaw that sometimes causes a short when a bulb
dies.
Q:
When its real cold, why don't some flasher control 'boxes' work right?
A:
Many flasher controls use a microchip and other electronic parts, and can
be affected by temperature - try to turn them on before it gets dark
Q:
Why does the wind burn out C7 and C9 bulbs
A:
The filaments on these bulbs are fragile (especially when on) Make sure
they are attached so that the bulbs can not be shaken by the wind
Q:
What's the best way to keep the wind from blowing decorations off the roof?
A:
Wind can put a massive force against stuff - see the Tips Page for more
info, scroll down to the section on wind
Q:
Do you sell any of the circuits or lights mentioned on your page?
A:
No.
If you have any questions not listed here e-mail me
NOTE:
to help ensure i get your mail please put
'xmas' or 'lights' in the subject line


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