“Pre-lit Christmas Trees - Owner Review”
Updated December 2010
Summary: unless you are willing to spring for a pre-lit tree that has the newer LED light bulbs, would recommend artificial tree but with no installed lights.
After years of buying a “fresh cut” Christmas tree and then hassling light strings, which always had burnt out bulbs and took hours to repair, in 2001, we bought an expensive, 6 foot tall, pre-lit, artificial, Christmas tree. Just take tree out of storage box, unfold the branches, plug in the lights and add ornaments. Perfect. Right? Well, sort of, initially anyway.
For 3 years all was fine and then in 2005 when I assembled tree, found half of every light string on the tree was out and if you thought finding a dead bulb in a string of lights in a box was tough, try it when the lights are all knotted around artificial tree limbs. Can’t tell where the wires or running and which string is which.
So, currently, I am in the process of taking all the light strings off the tree, a real mess for sure as some crazy person added the light strings and knotted wires here, there and everywhere. Anyway, once I have all the strings off the tree, not sure what I am going to do. Looking into the option of buying LED or light emitting diode based strings of lights, which supposedly have something like a 200,000-hour life span. Problem with LED strings is that they are expensive but if they live up to their life span claim, I could install on tree and then perhaps it would work like it is supposed to, right out of the storage box, year after year with no more hassle
My other option is to just buy the ordinary old mini light strings and string them on the tree like I used to do with fresh cut trees. Think I can install such that when I take tree down, most will stay in place for storage. Then if next year, when the tree is setup, if one or more strings are out, I would just go buy replacement strings and substitute new for old. At cost of new strings, my time is better spent just buying a new string rather than trying to find bum bulb or connection.
So, after all this, the bottom line is that I would not recommend a pre-lit Christmas tree to anyone, unless, perhaps, maybe, it had LED light strings installed on it. Artificial tree yes, but pre-lit, no.
10 December 2005. After all bum installed light strings were removed, I bought GE Constant On II light strings, which supposedly are the best, non-LED lights on the market. Then I strung each set of lights around a row of branches, dividing the number of lights on the string, 100, by the number of branches, 6, to get about 17 lights for the lowest, largest branches. I then attached male plug end of string to the tree pole with a cable strap and then counted out 17 lamps per branch and secured the beginning and end of 17 lamps to each branch. When all branches where secured, I went back and actually spread out the lamps per branch and again secured them with 4 inch cable ties, cutting off the excess tie length. The bottom section of my tree had 3 rows of 6 branches each and thus I added 3 strings of 100 lamps each. These strings were attached end-to-end but I set it up so no more lamp strings could be added as lamp strings come with a warning not connect more than 3 strings end-to-end.
Using 17 lamps per branch on the first section of my tree, upon examination, I found that the second section of my tree had 5 rows of 6 branches each and starting at the top, used 100 lamps for 2 branches or about 8 lamps per branch. I repeated 8 lamps per branch for the 3rd and 4th branches and then on the 5th branch, which mates up against my bottom section with 17 lamps per branch, I reduced the number of lamps to13 and then then added 4 additional lamps each the 4th row of branches. So I have 17 per branch on the bottom section 3 large branches, 13 on the first row of the second section of smaller branches, 12 on the next row up on the second section and then 8 per branch on the remaining rows of the second section.
In my case the very top section did not need repair work and I did not replace any lamp strings on it. What I did do, however, is run green extension cords on the "back" side of the tree pole such that the top section has it's own electrical outlet, the middle section has it's own electrical outlet and the bottom section has its own electrical outlet, thus not violating the, no more than 3 lamp strings connected end-to-end rule.
Yes, a lot of work but perhaps it will last now or I can only hope so.
Finally, if you do buy a pre-lit Christmas tree, you might want to examine if the, 3 strings connected end-to-end rule, has been violated. When I checked out our pre-lit tree, it had 6, 100 lamp strings, all connected end-to-end. I think if the 6 had been broken into 2 sections, requiring an extension cord for each 3 lamp strings section, perhaps bulbs would not have burnt out so quickly. No idea why manufacturer violated the 3 strings rule when they constructed tree. How much cost to add 2 extension cords?
Why is everything so hard?
21 December 2005. Received nice email from a fellow in Texas who makes pre-lit Christmas trees for various clients. Saw this write-up and said that when he makes a pre-lit tree, he includes an electrical dimmer or dimmers, which prolong the life of all lamp string lights. Never thought of this but going to try it. Makes sense. Thanks to Texas.
24 December 2005. Found, bought and installed extension cord with slide dimmer built into it. My set up now is timer plugged into wall outlet, which automatically turns tree lights on and off, into which my dimmer extension cord is plugged and from dimmer, a multi-headed extension supports the 3 extension cords, which actually power the 3 sets of lights on the tree.
December 2010. With dimmer arrangement defined above and care in disassembling tree each year and storing in its bag, no problems with light strings being out.