Monday, December 10, 2007

What is That Smell?

I love Christmastime, and the weeks leading up to it. In the footsteps of my mother, I spend much of the advent season plastering the outside of my house with Christmas lights. This year, in spite of adding several new elements to the display, I finished a full day early just before the rain came. The lights fared surprisingly well in the deluge, each connection carefully protected in Saran wrap, so I thought that my lights had withstood the test and would now shine uninhibited for the rest of the Holiday season. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

Each night I have gone to turn them on, something has gone wrong. Some nights I plug them in and nothing happens. Other times they come on but only momentarily, as if playing some cruel joke, and then go off again. Still other nights parts of the yard are aglow with luminous splendor while select trees and shrubbery remain stubbornly in darkness. Matthew and I spent about a week of this fiasco running extension cords to different outlets, hitting the reset buttons, and flipping breaker switches to no avail. But Saturday night was a turning point.

All of the outlets on the exterior of our house are what is called “GCI Protected”, which basically means if something goes wrong it automatically shuts off to prevent you from burning your house down. They are also connected to all the bathroom outlets, so whenever the Christmas lights go out, Matthew’s electric toothbrush doesn’t charge either. This, I believe, has been the added motivation needed to secure his assistance through it all.

Thinking that perhaps the rain had gotten into the exterior outlets, we tried running everything into indoor outlets without the GCI sticker on them. We plugged them in and viola! They worked! We had finally solved the mystery. It would be a hassle to have to unplug the washing machine every time we wanted to turn on the light display, but at that point I was just thrilled that they were on. Satisfied, I made a run to Wal-Mart and Matthew did some work at home. I returned about an hour later and regrouped with Matthew. As we chatted in the kitchen, we both stopped and looked around. “What is that smell?” Matthew asked, sniffing the air. We went to the outlet where one of the extension cords lay coiled around its plastic spool. The spool was melting. It wasn’t turning into a puddle of orange plastic, but it was warm and squishy to the touch. This was not good.

Needless to say, we have shut down the light display until further notice. Maybe it’s a faulty strand, or maybe it’s a bad connection. Maybe it’s electricity’s way of saying “Hey, crazy lady- scale it back a little!” In any event, we have a little more troubleshooting to do to solve this problem. Until then my house sits in Scroogely darkness, and the city of Phoenix power grid rejoices.

4 comments:

Gretchen said...

As I read this blog I'm thrown back to Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation. Wish I could see your display. And I'm very glad you noticed the smell...

Gretchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LisaQ said...

yay! you blogged!

Brian said...

Kristie - that's great! Glad you didn't burn down the house! I always love going by your house during Christmas; it's such a bright light in the dark un-celebratory (light displays) Phoenix area.