about Christmas Lights

jtaekoJuly 20, 2013

Hi, I wanted to know what that third wire is in a christmas light string? At the plug and other end there are 2 wires coming out of them. I'm assuming they're the hot and neutral wires. But between the first and last LED lights there's a third wire connecting all of the lights. I was wondering what that's for? Is that to make the lights a parallel circuit? I thought all christmas lights were series?

And I wanted to know, if I can connect two strings of LED lights together by snipping off the plug ends and wire nutting the hot to hot and neutral to neutral wires together? I know that there's a fuse in the male plug that I'll lose if I do this. Is there anything else I should know about doing this?


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Ron Natalie

It could be one of two things.

1. Some strings have a socket on the far end to provide 120V there so you can chain multiple sets together. The extra wire just brings that power through.

2. These minture sets put all the lower voltage bulbs (typically a 6v or so for incandescents, 1.8 for LEDS) in series to drop the 120V supply. If there are more bulbs than that drop adds up to, they may actually divide the bulbs amongst parallel strands.

Absent inspecting the wiring carefully, we can't tell you what you have.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:36AM
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The three wires may look confusing at first, but are really very simple - two of them just feed a hot and neutral downstream from one end to the other - the third is just a series feeder.

Let's say you have a strand with 180 light bulbs and it has light bulbs rated at 2 volts each. So first you put 60 of them in series and it will drop the 120 VAC over them equally to 2 volts each.

The next set of 60 light bulbs is just placed across the continuing parallel hot/neutral pair, again in series, and drops the voltage accordingly.

The last set of 60 light bulbs does the same thing.

The light bulbs also may include a "shunt" which has a slightly higher resistance than the bulb filament itself, but will continue to conduct downstream the keep the strand lit if the filament burns out.

With LEDs, there are more options to address inline failures and voltage drop depending on strand length.

Without getting into the "defeating the UL listing" of the light strands, yes, you can just wire nut them together, but can't you just hide the plug/receptacle connection?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:50PM
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