How to make little Christmas lights blink

Written by cindy quarters
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How to make little Christmas lights blink
Miniature Christmas lights can be made to blink, if desired. (Getty Thinkstock)

Christmas lights come in many different styles. They can be steady with no flicker or change in brightness, they can blink all the way off and on, or they can twinkle, blinking individually with varying degrees of brightness. Most sets of small Christmas lights are sold one of two ways, either as steady, unblinking lights or as lights that are connected to a controller. Both types of light sets can be made to blink, with a minimum of effort.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Light string
  • Blinker light bulb
  • Electronic light controller box, if desired

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  1. 1

    Lay out the first set of lights that you want to make into blinking lights. Untangle any snarls and knots, so that all bulbs can easily be viewed.

  2. 2

    Plug in the lights. Make sure the entire strand is working. If any lights are out, this is a good time to replace them.

  3. 3

    Unplug the lights. Remove one bulb, usually the one closest to the plug. This makes it easy to find if it burns out. Replace it with a blinker light bulb. These normally come as spare bulbs in the package with the light set and are clear bulbs with red or silver tops.

  4. 4

    Plug the lights back in. At first they should all come on. As the lights warm up, the blinker light will heat up and an internal filament bends. This breaks the circuit and causes all of the lights to go off. It cools rapidly, the filament straightens, and all of the lights come on again. This cycle repeats until the blinker bulb is worn out and stops working.

  5. 5

    Check to see that all of your lights are blinking. If you have some that are and some that aren't, your lights are on more than one circuit. Replace one of the non-blinking lights with a blinker light bulb, and test the strand again. Continue doing this until all of the lights in the strand are blinking.

Tips and warnings

  • If the blinker bulb stops working, the rest of the lights will go out. Replace it to restore light to the string. If you want to use patterns other than blinking, try plugging the lights into an electronic controller box. Such a box will allow you to program many different light patterns and create many different effects in addition to simple blinking.
  • Some battery-powered miniature lights come with a ready-made switch on the battery box. You can simply switch it to "On," "Off" or "Blink" (or "Twinkle"). This allows you to choose a setting with minimal hassle, either all lights on, all lights off, or the blinking or twinkling setting.
  • As with most electrical items, Christmas lights should not be left on if unattended. This is especially true when they are being used on a cut tree, which may become dried out and possibly flammable later in the season.

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