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BGE Patio String Lights

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It is a little early yet for snowflakes to be in the air around my house, but there is no shortage of Big Green Eggs in the air. I know, I know: Not one of you probably has a clue what I'm talking about. Let me put it in plain English: I just got done installing the BGE string lights that were in the swag bag for this year's EGGtoberfest. I installed them on my grill gazebo, learned a few things and found a neat gizmo along the way. I figured I'd share what I learned since there are several thousand people who got these in their swag bags, Many of them may not have installed them yet.

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DESCRIPTION:

The BGE Patio String Lights are a just over 10’ (3 m) string of standard mini incandescent Christmas tree lights with little translucent plastic Big Green Egg replicas concealing the bulbs themselves. The bulbs are spaced around 1 foot (30 cm) on center. The cord has plugs on each end so the cords can be strung together to make a longer run of lights. Please note that only one end of the cord has both a male and a female plug, while the other has only a female plug. So do pay attention to this and make sure the plug with the male/female plug is installed on the end of the run near your power source. Nothing new here. The only thing different about this and regular Christmas tree lights is the inclusion of the translucent plastic Big Green Egg Covers.


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INSTALLATION

I decided to run these lights just below the beam at the roof level on two sides and just under the gable end beam on the front of my grill gazebo. This would allow the three strings to be connected in a continuous run. They would originate up over the post at the south east corner which has the electric power for my outlet and lights. There was no need to run lights on the forth side since the only people who would be entertained would be furry woodland creatures. I would need some clips to hold the lights, an 8’ (2.4 m) extension cord and some sort of an outdoor timer for these lights. I will describe a couple of the items below.

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Clips:

The clips I bought were intended to fasten coax cable to wood. The clips are made of aluminum and are painted white. They come with a matching white hex/slotted head sheet metal screw. The sales person at Lowe's had used these to do his own lights and the fact that the clips were aluminum and would not rust appealed to me. Coax cable is a bit bigger than the three-stranded wire for the Christmas lights, but being aluminum it was easy to bend it to securely clip the lights. I used a flat bladed screwdriver, but I could bend them with my fingers if I desired. What I like about this is when it's time to remove the lights, I can just bend the clips open and slip the wires out. The clips will be there for the next time I want to hang the lights. To hang the lights I installed a clip midway between each of the BGE bulbs, also on either side of where the wire went around the diagonal cross brace at the corner post and one on each end near the plug.

Extension Cord:
Nothing fancy here, I needed an 8’ (2.4 m) exterior extension cord. I was hoping to find one in gray or black, but dark green was the closest I could come. My intent was to try and match the color of the electrical conduit the wiring for my gazebo lights were run in.

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Timer:

I had a battery operated timer I was planning on using, but in my trip to Ace Hardware to get the extension cord I discovered something better for really short money. I got a Woods brand Lighting Timer with Remote that was perfect for the job. I have seen the same device now at several other stores under several other brand names. The best part was this unit was marked down from $14.99 to $7.99. I was not looking for a timer, but one of the aisles at Ace had end cap display prominently featuring items related to outdoor Christmas lighting. As you can see from the picture above, the device has a triangular shaped body. It is intended to be hung by the included short length of electrical cord from an outdoor outlet. The wider bottom portion of the unit has three grounded outlets for Christmas lights. The face of the unit as a pilot light showing when it is powered on, a photocell for measuring light levels and a round dial to let you set the timer mode the way you wish. The dial has settings for always “Off”, always “On”, “Dusk to Dawn” and “2”, “4”, “6”, or “8” hours. The “Dusk to Dawn” setting uses the photocell to turn the power on at dusk and off at dawn. The “2”, “4”, “6”, or “8” hour settings turn the unit on at dusk and allow it to run for the number of hours you have it set to. This setting is ideal for exterior decorative lights. Like they say on the infomercials: "But wait there's more!” The unit also came with a little tiny remote control unit that you can hang on your keychain, which can turn the lights on and off from up to 80’ away. If you have the unit set to the “2”, “4”, “6”, or “8” hour setting, it turns the unit on at the current time you click it and the unit remains on for the amount of hours set the dial is set to. The following day it reverts to turning on at dusk. Discovering this unit was a total happy accident because it was exactly what I didn't know I needed.

TIPS, TRICKS & GOTCHAS:
Here are a few things I discovered while installing these lights. Some I discovered the hard way, and some I was smart enough to catch ahead of time:
  • The wires for these units, like most plastic sheathed wiring, get stiff in the cold. Therefore when taking the string lights out of the box work indoors. For two of the boxes the lights came out and the cord untangled fairly easily. I am guessing the third box may have been opened by someone because it took me quite a while to untangle everything. Best to do this indoors where you are not being impeded by a stiff cable. Get the cable completely untangled and bring it outside stretched to full length.
  • These string lights can be strung together. There are plugs at both ends of the wiring. However only one plug is male and female, while the other plug is female only. When running lights, the male/female plug needs to be closer to your power source so you can plug it into an extension cord or the outlet itself. Don't ask how I know this.
  • These lights appear to be a normal string of Christmas lights with BGE shaped ornamental covers added on to it. The base for the light passes through a rectangular opening in what would be the Dual Function Metal Cap on a real Big Green Egg. The base is not secured to the ornamental BGE cover. Many of the lights came out of the box with the base extending about a quarter of an inch (6 mm) outside the Egg, which I feel is the intended position. There is a flange at the top of each light base which prevents the light from coming completely out of the ornamental Egg. I cannot tell if the “Dual Function Metal Draft Cap” lookalike is intended to unscrew to allow access to the light to replace a burned out bulb. I didn't feel like taking the chance of breaking the light before I even used it.

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  • If the lamp base is not securely attached to the ornamental Big Green Egg there is another consequence. It allows the “Egg” to be spun around in any old direction. This happens when the light base is pushed far enough inside the “Egg" that the bulb is actually completely inside the body of the Egg. The lamp base is no longer held in the rectangular opening in the “Dual Function Metal Cap” look-alike. When hung this way there is not a super tight seal where the lamp base passes through into the “Egg”. When the lamp base is secured inside the faux “Dual Function Metal Draft Cap” the lamp has a decent seal and cannot spin around free form. As I was hanging my lights I made sure that each lamp base was secured to the ornamental BGE. The lamp base is rectangular so the ornamental BGE can be oriented in one of two directions. As I was making sure the lamp base was secured by hanging partially through the Big Green Egg, I also make sure the “Egg” was facing outward, so you were looking at the front of the “Egg” when you were standing in front of it.
  • What worked best for me was to get one end of the string secured where I wanted it for my desired spacing. Then I would stretch out three or four of the string lights and eyeball where the midpoint between the lights were. I marked these locations with a pencil and drilled pilot holes for three or four clips all at once. After the clips were installed I would start running the wire into the clips, bending each clip closed as I went. Then I moved my ladder and stretched out three or four more of the string lights.
  • In my case I wanted the string lights running under the gable end to be centered on the gable end. Therefore I establish the proper position for this string and ran it first. After that I ran the two side strings which basically fell where they may. Your mileage may vary. Just be sure if you are looking to achieve a certain spacing and look, that you run the string of lights that establishes that spacing or look first.
  • Once the strings were run, some of the lamps were not hanging vertically. They were splayed off to one side or another. No doubt this was due to being coiled up in the box for who knows how long. Don't sweat it too much. Once the lights are hung, and the cold air has stiffened up the wires, it is simple enough gently bend the BGE bulbs so they are in a vertical position.
  • Since the plastic used on these lights matches the dark green color of a real Big Green Egg, they are almost invisible when turned on during the day. I had a minor heart attack when I finish running the three strings and I plugged in an extension cord to do a test. I wanted to make sure the lights were functioning before I finished the installation. At this point it was about 3:45 in the afternoon. The sun has gone down below the trees and It was quite shady inside the grill gazebo. When I plugged in the lights I didn't see anything at first. I was asking myself what I might have possibly screwed up, But after I stared at the lights a little longer, I could see a faint glow coming from inside of them. What I am getting at here is these are definitely not lights that you'll see during the daytime. Even at night with a lot of outdoor lighting they can be a little hard to see. It is only in the pitch dark that they truly show up well. So if you want lights that you'll see during the daytime, don't buy these.


CONCLUSION:
I was very happy when I saw these lights in the EGGtoberfest swag bag. I had seen them before and the various BGE catalogs. I thought they were kind of cool, but I spent my EGGcessory money on items that helped me cook my food. At a price of free, I couldn't be happier with them and everyone who is seen them so far gets a real kick out of them.

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