Untangled Christmas Lights: How to avoid detangling

If you use mini-lights and mini-light icicles, use zip ties to make sure you have untangled Christmas lights when they come out of the box next year.

I love the “Little knot here” scene from Christmas Vacation where he just hands Russ a huge ball of tangled lights.

Storage Methods I’ve Tried

I am talking about strands of 200+ outdoor mini-lights.  If you have the huge kind that line the roofline, I would use the method on the following post for storing  with cardboard for large C7 or C9 bulb strings.  For shorter strands like most indoor ones, I like this method to pack short indoor mini lights.

I’ve tried using the cardboard from inside paper towel rolls, wrapping into a ball, coat hangers and for awhile I liked using the plastic bags from the grocery store was my favorite method until I discovered zip ties.

Use Zip Ties for Untangled Christmas Lights

Here’s all you need to do.  Wrap the lights around your elbow by making a hook around your thumb similar to how most people wrap up an extension cord.  Once you’ve got the strand wrapped up, snap a zip tie around it.  A second zip tie on the other side makes it nearly impossible to get a tangle.  I normally just do a single zip tie and place things into the storage bin neatly.

So that’s the easiest way to have untangled christmas lights when you go to put them up next year.

Here’s what a strand that’s ready to go in the storage bin looks like:

Untangled Christmas Lights using a zip tie

 

Advice for Next Year

To keep from getting tangles, I take the zip tied strands out and set them next to where I plan to use them.  Then I only snip the zip tie when I am going to use that strand of lights.

If you like my tip for having tangle free Christmas lights, check out these links to advice for making it easy to put them up next year:

Putting Up Christmas Lights: 3 Tips to Save Time

Hang Christmas Lights In Outdoor Trees

Hang Christmas Lights In Outdoor Trees

Our neighborhood has professionals come in and install lights in the trees on the way in and out of the subdivision and they look fantastic. My wife wanted the same thing at our house but I didn’t know how to hang Christmas lights that high in the trees.  I also didn’t want to pay the steep price for the pros.  I’ve given other advice on how to make the whole job easier at Make Putting Christmas Lights Up Easy.  Since I’ve had others that live near me ask me quite a few times how I hang Christmas lights up in the trees, I thought it’s worth sharing.

Here’s what one of our big trees looks like this year:

Hang Christmas Lights in a Big Tree

Hang Christmas Lights in Your Trees

Here’s how I did it. We got a ton of lights from Target in and after Christmas sale. These trees use up the lights really quickly. For the tree in that picture, I used 4 strands of 200 to make 800 lights. Only 200 are down on the base.

I made a basic tool from a $15 pole extension at Lowe’s, the top of a wire closet hanger, and some duck tape.  This thing doesn’t require any instructions.  I have an 8 foot step ladder, am 6 foot tall, and with this extension tool I can get the lights up about 30 feet into the tree.

ChristmasLightsPole

The Story Behind the Tool

I grew up with my dad climbing the step ladder and using the neighbor’s limb cutting extension to get the lights up.  Repurposing the tree trimming tool was cumbersome and he even cut a strand of lights at one point.  The tool also didn’t extend far enough to get a professional look.

Since I couldn’t recall what to do from childhood, I just went up to the local hardware store and started looking around for things that might work.  The window washer’s extension pole was a good price and looked like it would work so I grabbed it.

Hang Christmas Lights in Trees


Putting Up Christmas Lights: 3 Tips to Save Time

It’s been over 4 years now since I’ve moved into my current home and really started to try and do a great job on the Christmas lights out in our yard. We went from a condo where it didn’t take long at all to having a bunch of huge trees and roofline that I’ve only got a ladder tall enough to get up to the top of the garage roofline. In other words, putting up Christmas lights and taking them back down took forever the first year we were here. Now I can get them up and down well enough to think I should share some advice.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am constantly thinking of strategies to make everything easier. These tips make it easier to get your lights up and down without the headaches and frustration.

So here are the tips.

1. Start from the power

As you put the lights up, or even prior to, plan out how the power is going to make it to all of the various parts of the yard that you’re going to have lights in.  The easiest way to make this job take forever is if you have to redo things or run to the store for more extension cords.  As much as I love Christmas vacation, I do everything I can to avoid a moment like Clark’s problem with the power!

Tips:

    • Save a few strands of old broken lights to make running the power easier short distances between things like bushes or trees.
    • Put the lights up with the power on so there are no surprise outages.
    • Get the timers that turn on automatically at dusk.
    • Measure beforehand to make sure the extension cords and sets of lights you have will get the job done.

2. Get the right tools

Here’s all the things I use to make getting the lights up easier.

  • Get an extension pole with a hook on the end. I make my own out of an old coat hanger and a 16ft extension pole from the hardware store. I also made one for my dad and he reminds me every year that it’s one of the best gifts he’s ever been given. I have more info about this pole over in my post on hanging Christmas lights in trees.
  • Use shingle/gutter plastic hooks to hang on roofline or gutters. When I was a kid, we used to use nails and a staple gun to get the lights on the roofline. Not anymore, using the right hooks on the roofline makes the lights go up and come down a whole lot easier. Ditto for getting them on the gutters. Here’s the ones I use:

  • Have plenty of replacement bulbs on hand. While I am putting up Christmas lights or taking them down, I replace broken bulbs. Being diligent about this has kept me from having a strand out the last three years. Last year, I even had my kids take all the good bulbs remaining off a strand of lights that had been heavily damaged by the wind.
  • Get the Swiss-Army knife for Christmas Lights Tool. This tool is a lifesaver. Whenever a strand of lights looks like it’s going bad, I can use this tool and replace a few bulbs to bring it back to life. I’ve even been able to bring an old nativity set back to life where most of the pieces in the set didn’t have a single working light on the first time I plugged them in.

3. Keep the lights tidy

Finally, keeping things organized and untangled is key to making this job easy. To streamline this piece of the job, I find the following to be very useful:

  • Get the right storage bin(s). Think it through for your house. Having the right storage can save a ton of time. I bought one really large storage bin on wheels for all the strands of lights. I keep it in the garage under my workbench and wheel it out when it’s time for them to go up or down.  I also throw a couple pieces of cardboard in just to make sure too much moisture doesn’t get in the lights.

  • Use zip ties to keep the lights from getting tangled. I read all kinds of tricks for how to keep the lights from getting tangled. I even used plastic grocery bags one year. Those weren’t bad; but for my money and time, zip ties are worth the few cents for how much easier they are to secure to the lights and snip off when it’s time to put them back up.  I’ve got more on using zip ties to avoid tangles.

Summary: Putting Up Christmas Lights Gets Easier

There you go. If you follow these tips, getting lights up and down each year will just keep getting easier.
Please do me a favor and if you have any tips for me that make putting up Christmas lights or taking them down even easier, be sure to comment below.


Low Speed Error L51 for Sole F63 Treadmill

I moved my treadmill and afterwards trying to turn on the treadmill just resulted in it giving an L51 Sole Low Speed Error.  I’ve finally gotten my treadmill working again and figured I’d post my experience to hopefully help somebody else out since I couldn’t find much online.

Owners Guide on L51 Sole Low Speed Error

Before contacting Sole, I tried out the easy stuff in the Sole F63 owner’s guide regarding the L51 Low Speed Error:
– try to calibrate
– adjust the speed sensor

Neither had any impact.

Consulting the Web

I searched and browsed and found quite a few tips in different places. Most of the advice I found beyond calibration or adjusting the speed sensor were also in the owner’s manual under general maintenance. For example, livestrong.com recommends cleaning, tightening|lubricating the belt & checking the power supply.

None of these helped me either.

Contacting with Sole

Then we contacted Sole and they sent us a box of stuff without having us do any real troubleshooting.

The box had a new controller board, a new speed sensor, and some new wires to connect the main control unit.

Advice here is that as you try out the new pieces, don’t undo any of the nice twisty ties that have the existing wires in place or take the wire out of the front right leg. Just run the wires to the side quickly to eliminate whether or not they change the symptoms. Also take pictures of the wiring to the mother board so that you have a nice easy reference. Here’s one of my pics that made it easy to put it back in place.
Motherboard during L51 Sole Low Speed Error Troubleshooting

Likewise, monitor the behavior of the controller board. My symptom was that the mother board would get power, a red light would come on, and then it would make a single click. Never a second click.

I was able to prove the motor worked fine by hooking up the power to the battery from my cordless drill. This one really impressed my wife.

I called Sole and they sent me another motherboard to swap out which didn’t change any symptoms.

A Resolution

The piece that finally fixed it was a whole new console. The explanation here is that the click from the mother board was sending a signal to the console saying it was ready for commands but the console was never responding telling it to turn the motor on and get running.

Another Resolution

The man in the video below had a similar issue and completely relocating the speed sensor was what finally fixed it for him. If you’ve replaced everything else, then you may want to check out the video below and the comments section to learn more about how relocating the sensor fixed the issue for him.

In Summary

If you’re getting the Sole Low Speed Error when trying to turn on your Sole F63 treadmill, then the Sole support team may be very helpful as they were in my case. However, you may be left to do quite a bit of troubleshooting on your own. The nice thing is that at least in my case, sole was willing to keep sending out parts as long as I would do the work.