What to Check When the Christmas Lights Go Out

Don't be a Grinch at Christmas, keep your Christmas lights shining!

Close-up of lit colorful lights
Close-up of lit colorful lights. Rara Subair / EyeEm

Christmas is a time of presents, snowy yards and roofs, Christmas trees, and of course, Christmas lights. Now you don't have to decorate like the Grizwalds, but let's face it, it is really nice to look at Christmas decorations as they sparkle in the darkness of the night. As you may have figured out, it's pretty hard to see decorations in the dark without a little help. 

Those decorations are easily visible in the light of day, but at night they need a little help making them noticeable.

Yes, I'm talking about digging out the massive supply of Christmas lights, covering the yard, trees, and house until the utility company calls and tells you that you're using too much power! OK, maybe not, but there is nothing more frustrating than pulling these strands of lights out and having them not light up. I hear the same reply each year, how they worked just fine when I put them away last year.

Depending on the type of Christmas lighting string that you have, it could be as simple as a fuse has blown or a light bulb has burned out. I've also seen wires pulled from the wire connector and wires nicked. Knowing that there are many possibilities of Christmas light failure, I'd advise spending time going through each set of lights and checking them all before stringing any of them. Place all the working ones in one area and the non-working lights in another. The time spent in the beginning will save you time when you actually start stringing the lights.

There's nothing worse than stringing many sets of Christmas lights all over the tree, placing the garland around it so nicely, and getting all of those pretty Christmas balls, figurines, bows, and candy mounted on the tree branches, only to have the lights now work after the fact. Believe me, I have learned my lesson, at least a couple of times before I decided to check everything first before installing them on the tree.

With some of the steps I've listed below, you'll be able to find the trouble in no time. Take your time and follow the checklist to solve the trouble.

This time of year is definitely the time to decorate the tree with garland and Christmas lights. The glow of colored lights glistening throughout the house while waiting for old St. Nick. But what happens when the lights suddenly go out? Is Rudolf stealing the power to light his nose? Is there a power outage? Well, don't get too excited yet. Let's examine what some of the probable causes are and how to remedy the problems.

  1. Check the Circuit Breaker or Fuse Feeding the Circuit

    Go to the electrical panel and check to see if any circuit breakers are tripped or fuse blown. Use a circuit tester to see if the outlet that the lights are plugged into is hot. If not and the circuit is on, turn the circuit off, remove the outlet, and check the connections to the outlet.

  2. Check the Fuses in the Christmas Lights

    If the Christmas lights go out, it may be as simple as a fuse blowing within the light set itself. Located within the plug-in plug is a couple of fuses. They are hidden behind a sliding door that is clearly marked. Simply unplug the lights and slide the cover to expose the fuses. Remove the fuses and check them with an ohmmeter. If there is no resistance, they are good, but if there is infinite resistance, they are bad and should be replaced.

  1. Check the Individual Light Bulbs

    Sometimes the Christmas light bulbs themselves are the troublemakers. They could be loose in the sockets and that can cause them not to light. A bulb could have fallen completely out of a socket or have a bulb wire bent to the side that isn't making contact with the socket contacts. Usually, you'll have some replacement bulbs that come with the lights for just such an emergency. Replace the bulbs if needed.