Upgrading Your Existing Decorations to LEDs

I have always loved the spiral tree lights in front of homes during the holidays.  I broke down and bought one a few years ago, but it only lasted two seasons before half of the lights stopped working.  I was bummed, but wasn’t about to buy another one to have it go out in a year or two.  Then I got the idea, from my mother-in-law actually, to restring the lights on the tree.  She had done this with a lighted reindeer last year.  I had to take it one steep greener and use LED lights because they should last longer and use a fraction of the electricity. So, I asked my five year old daughter if she wanted to help and we got to work.

Here is how we did it:

  • First we setup the spiral tree in our living room.  If you can find a place out of the way, your wife/husband and other family members will be much happier about the project.
  • Then we checked to be sure the lights really didn’t work and in fact, about half the lights were out.  There were four or five bulbs that were suspicious, including one that was broken and shocked me.  Ouch!  When working with electricity, especially with things like broken lights, be careful!
  • After unplugging the lights, we proceeded to remove the clipped on lights.  I worked from the top and my daughter started at the bottom.  Be careful not to damage the frame, but don’t worry if you break a couple of the plastic clips, we did, because those lights are broken anyways.

  • The star, which had lights mounted inside of it took a bit of patience and persistence.  I slowly worked a flat head screwdriver around the edges and was able to separate the star into its two pieces.  Inside was a mounting bracket from which I removed the old incandescent holiday lights.
  • When picking out an LED string to use, be sure that it is UL rated for Outdoor use.  The string of LEDs I was originally going to use was only Indoor rated, so I found another one that was rated for Outdoor use.

  • Once the old string of lights was removed, we started by mounting the LED string in the star and working our way down the spiral of the tree.  One hint for next time, make sure that you compare the length of the old string with the new string.  You may need to use multiple LED strings to cover the entire tree.  Use small cable ties to secure the lights to the metal wire that makes up the spiral.  We found about every 2-3 LEDs was the right spacing.  I showed my daughter on the top ones and then she proceeded to do the majority of the tree by herself.  You can trim the cable ties or not.  We left them and pointed them down to resemble icicles.
  • Plug in and enjoy — You may want to take it outside for others to enjoy as well!

All in all the project took us a little under an hour to do.  I’m sure it would have been quicker if I had done it myself, but it was much more fun to work with my daughter on the project and she is very proud of the tree that she helped fix, reuse and make energy efficient.

The next time you have a holiday decoration that is broken, consider if you can fix it up instead of throwing it away and buying a new one.  You’ll save money, help the environment and you can have fun doing a project with your kids.  And for that special “green” flare, go for green LEDs!

Happy Greening!


  1. Great idea! Most of our Christmas lights are out, too, so we’ve been replacing them with LED lights and now most have been switched over. I love ’em! I’m following you back from MBC, love you blog!!!

  2. Great idea!!

    Following you from MBC, would love to see you over at my place too:)

  3. Stopping by from the Mom Spark forum. This is a great idea. People don’t realize how much electricty those old Christmas lights can eat up.

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