LED Keeper device

Repair Your Light Sets With the LED Keeper

Hacking the Holidays Products Reviews

It’s a brand new year—time to pack up the holiday decorations and get rid of all those non-working strings of lights, right? Maybe not. The LED Keeper (as well as the related gadget Light Keeper Pro) can help you diagnose and repair your light sets so that you can get some more use out of them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my hands on this review sample unit until after I’d already set up my Christmas tree this year, but I had two strands of LED lights and both of them had a dead section in them. We just made do with those and tried to hide the non-working parts near the wall, but it meant that I had a lot of extra wires just scrunched up in the back, and fewer lights than we wanted. When we took down our tree, I got out the LED Keeper and gave it a shot.

The device is about the size and shape of a banana: a curved handle with a trigger that looks a bit like one of those long lighters, but, instead of a tube for the flame, there’s a small hook at the end. From the back, there’s a cord with a two-prong outlet, and it runs on a 9V battery (included). Also included are two light bulb PODs (more on those later) and two simple clips, similar to those you’d use for a bag of chips.

LED Keeper hooked onto light string.
The hook clamps onto the LED wire. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The first thing you do is plug your lights into the wall and check which section is burnt out, and then use the clips to mark that section. After that, plug the lights into the LED Keeper. Then, you pick a spot about halfway in that section and run the wire through the hook. Pull the trigger, and it will clamp down on the wire, piercing a small hole in the insulation and lighting up the lights on one side or the other. You can remark this position, and keep moving around the non-lit section until you locate the single bulb that doesn’t light up. (In my case, I had two burnt-out bulbs in the same section, which explains why I’d had so much trouble last year trying to figure out which one to replace!)

Lit bulb plugged into back of LED Keeper
The back of the LED Keeper has a bulb tester and a fuse tester. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Once you’ve located the bad bulb, you can remove it using the bulb puller on the back, and then double-check if it works in the bulb tester. There’s also a fuse tester as well, though I didn’t need to use it myself. If you’ve got replacement bulbs for the string, pop those in and you should be all set!

Open POD and POD installed on light string
The POD replaces a bulb if you don’t have spares. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

What if you don’t have a spare bulb? In my case, I had to use both of my available spares on one light strand, so I didn’t have any for the second strand. That’s where the light bulb PODs come in. The LED Keeper includes two of them: it’s a small plastic case with a resistor inside. You snip the wires right next to the bad bulb and then feed the wires into the POD, which then cuts into the insulation when you close it. The POD helps maintain the load balance of the string so that you’re not running excess voltage through all of the other LEDs. I installed the POD on my second string, and the rest of the bulbs lit up merrily.

I’ve thrown out a lot of light strands over the years—sometimes I managed to track down the burnt-out bulb to replace it, but, eventually, I’d give up and just replace the whole thing. The LED Keeper will help me get more use out of these light strands, keeping them out of the landfill. Plus, it just feels cool to be able to repair things rather than throw them out. Now if they’d just make a device that helps me untangle them…

The LED Keeper and the Light Keeper Pro can be purchased at various hardware stores and other retailers, or directly from the Ulta-Lit Tree Company for $35.00 each. Additional PODs for the LED Keeper are available for $10 for a 4-pack.

Disclosure: I received a sample of this device for review.

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