While now might seem a bit early to think of getting your Christmas lights in order, actually it is a pretty good time. The lights have yet to appear in stores, but you can find plenty of them online. True, they are a bit on the expensive side--a set of 70 bulbs can set you back a good $20-35, especially if you get the new purple, pink, or warm whites. But, you are likely to get a quality product.
Which is more than can be said about a product called Everstar Merchandise Christmas lights. Seems that this company hides the company name in tiny print on its generic looking packages. You are likely to find these crap lights at places like Sam's Club, at grocery stores and department stores, or at those discount stores. The problem is that, these sets of lights are assured to conk out early. I bought a dozen of these sets and put them up on my windows in the outline of a tree, and before long I noticed that half-strings of them were going dark. Normally, this happens only when a bulb gets water in it and corrodes the socket, but these were indoors. This tends to happen on sets where they are turned off nightly and turned on during the day, or off during the day and on in the evening, more than sets left on all the time.
I noticed one set of them developing this problem, and then shortly after, others started having the same issue. Within 2 years, all of the strings I had in the window developed this issue--and they were used only on the inside. The ones I strung along the ceiling also did this. I can only imagine what would have happened if I had set these up on a Christmas tree and heavily decorated the tree, only to see them going out shortly before Christmas Eve. About the only thing these lights are good for is prank decoration of a Kingdumb Hell.
This is shameful. The above mentioned lights were purchased and set up during the 2008 season. I have Sylvania sets purchased in 2007, and while they developed dead bulbs (mostly green and blue), no whole or half strings of the Sylvania sets bought and installed in 2007 developed this issue. Another brand that I recommend is Westinghouse--I bought those online from Bronners (unfortunately, they seemed to have discontinued this fine line of lights), and virtually every one of the bulbs has been perfect since then. Holiday Creations also makes an excellent set of LED Christmas lights. And, 1000 Bulbs Inc sells some fine bulbs (though they only sell light bulbs and Christmas strands, not clips or other accessories).
Whether you are planning on going through your Christmas lights soon or you wait until Thanksgiving, remember to avoid Everstar Merchandise lights at all costs. You can recognize this crap product by the silver gray box and the difficulty in finding the brand name. You will need to look for the fine print "Distributed by Everstar Merchandise" on the reverse. If you see this designation, you are better off leaving it on the shelf--chances are good that you will pay $8 for a set of 60 bulbs, and have a bunch of dead strands within a few weeks or months. And, if you do leave them up all summer or use them for decoration during other seasons, you are going to be replacing them soon.