Saturday, November 24, 2007

Today, I feel lousy

Not lousy in a sick way. Just devoid of any energy or will to do anything. I think this is because today was outdoor Christmas light day, and it ended in failure. I got everything hooked up, but some of the lights don't work and I can't figure out why. I though I had one string root-caused when I found a light bulb that was broken off, but upon replacement, it still didn't work.

I was out there with my inductive AC voltage sensor, but it wasn't picking anything up. It wasn't even picking anything up on the wires going to the lights that actually worked. I found that it worked for the first 30 or so lights, then after that, it got nothing. These strings have about 100 lights in series. It seems I need the "LAC" (low voltage AC) model.

I got out my digital multimeter and tried to do continuity checks, but my probe tips wouldn't fit in the slots.

Yeah - there's a prom night joke in there somewhere.

So I was reduced to removing a big giant handful of bulbs and then doing continuity checks on them individually. I got through 22 (all passed) before I gave up and went inside for dinner. These lights I hung on the tree last year, and I left them up all year. They are "commercial grade" lights that are supposed to last forever. But, they are the same made in China crap as everything else.

I got fed up with this same problem on the indoor tree, and I bought LED lights this year. I read an article that said they were about the same price as conventional lights. However, it was comparing C4-sized lights (those big 4W bulbs you put outside). For mini-lights, it's $10.99 for 50 LEDs vs. $3.99 for 150 incandescents. But if it saves me one day of Christmas light hell, it will be worth it. I plan to gradually convert everything over to LEDs.

They flicker, by the way. LEDs only emit light when the voltage is applied in one polarity. Household AC alternates. So you get this really cool 60 Hz flicker that you can only see if it's moving. If the light is still, it seems to be on solid. But if you wave the string around, they strobe. It's wicked hooper-dooper.

I think what bother me the most, though, is the I have a g-damned Ph.D. in electrical engineering, I've spent much of my career becoming an electrical debug expert at The Company, and I can't get a stupid string of Christmas lights to work.


wife said...

The ones that work sure are purty.

ellie said...

that's funny!

Manly Lesbian said...

Lampoons Christmas Vacation!!!!!!

Rhonda said...

Christmas lights are to keep you humble.

We switched to LED! It's a done deal.