December 14, 2020

There’s nothing more frustrating than having everything in your display ready to go but suddenly things are not working like they are suppose to.

In this post, we’re going to go over the common issues that take place in a lighting display and ways to trouble shoot and address those issues.

As I am coming up on having a few years of Christmas lighting under my belt, I have a learned a few things the hard way. These are my top tips and suggestions in hopes of saving you time and frustration with troubleshooting.

Having Extras

My very first tip for those with a Christmas display is having extra of everything on hand. I’ve learned that having extra cables, props, even controllers, and receiver boards, are very nice to have on hand.

With your display up and going, it makes it very easy to start switching things out when you’re in a pinch and avoids you trying to find hard-to-find items in the heat of the season…and then overnight shipping them at additional cost!

Replacing Pixels

What happens when you need to replace a pixel? How do you do it? The following process would go for a regular node and a bullet node.

When you first find the pixel, be sure to mark with a sharpie marker so that you can find it very easily in the future. Tape can fall off, but Sharpie goes nowhere!

Depending where you pixels are, such as a prop or strip, you want to be sure to remove the pixels very carefully so that you don’t damage anything on your props. Especially in the cold when it makes everything more brittle.

Once you remove your pixels, you then want to determine which direction the data is flowing. Some pixels will have arrows showing this and others will have it listed as DI for Data Input and DO for Data Output.

When replacing a bad pixel, it is a rule of thumb to replace the bad pixel as well as the pixel before it, because the problem could be at the output of the previous pixel (which works), or at the bad pixel.

To save you time, it’s easier to just replace both of them.

There are a few different ways to replace the pixels and I personally prefer using the scotch locks method. But in this video, you can decide which method is the best for you.

Not Lighting Up

There may be a scenario where your prop, multiple props, lighting, or controller are not lighting up at all. You first want to make sure that everything is plugged in and connected like it should be.

It’s not uncommon that things may come unplugged while setting up or just unplugged by accident. First, just double check your cables and power supply to confirm that everything is plugged in like it should be.

If you see that everything is plugged in and should be working, you then want to check the actual power supply unit.

Using an electric multimeter check the live to ground and live to neutral which should come back around 115 volts. The neutral to ground should be a low voltage.

Lastly, check the voltage plus and voltage minus as well. If everything comes back and your power supply unit is good you then want to check the voltage on your controller.

This doesn’t happen very often but between loose wires, the power supply unit, and the controller one of those most likely will have gone bad for your lights to not turn on.

Additionally, if you’ve made ANY changes to your display, check your configuration! The test buttons on controllers can help you to see if the prop is physically working or not. If the prop physically works from a test mode, then your configuration is to blame!


When working with cables and electronics outdoors, there’s bound to be some sort of issue. If you happen to see your lights flickering or even strobing your cable connections may be getting wet.

That’s when you want to have some dielectic grease on hand if everything is corroded. It’s a grease that you can just add a little on the connector and that will keep them dry.

Control Boxes

Lastly, the control boxes which this is very rare but something to keep in mind. Some people may have had issues with vandalism or people getting into their control boxes.

The best solution is to put high voltage stickers on your control boxes or put a lock on the box so that nobody can get into them. There are times I even zip tied the lid closed so that it wasn’t easily accessible.

As I said, it doesn’t happen often but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

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