Keep holiday light decorating safe, efficient, festive and fun

More than 86 percent of Americans decorate their homes as part of their winter holiday celebrations, according to a recent consumer survey from the Electrical Safety Foundation International. Customers can cut down on their energy use during the holidays by making smart lighting choices.

Benefits of using LED holiday lighting

Energy.gov cites many reasons to choose LED holiday lighting over incandescent lights. LEDs use up to 80% less energy than traditional bulbs, they’re brighter, eco-friendly, and are safer, as they are much cooler than incandescent lights. In addition, they are easier to install—up to 24 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket. They last ten times longer and have no filaments or glass to break. If you prefer white lights with the look of incandescent lights, look for “warm” white on the label.

Traditional incandescent string lights lose much of their energy (about 90 percent) through heat, not light, making them very inefficient.

Besides using LED holiday lights, here are some other ways to save energy.

  1. Limit usage: Set timers for lights to turn on and off automatically. Keep light displays on during the evening and turn them off overnight. Set timers for lights to automatically turn on when it gets dark and off in the middle of the night. You can save more by keeping light displays on only 8 hours of the evening (when you can see them).
  2. Get reflective: Shiny ornaments, tinsel and mirrors can multiply the effects of your lighting without using more energy. Be sure to keep tinsel away from pets, though. Reflective ornaments and tinsel are just as bright at night, so getting creative with your lighting display can multiply your resources for shine. Don’t forget the ribbons, wreaths, garland, and reflective menorahs, for electricity- free age-old traditions still bring holiday cheer.

Holiday lighting safety tips

  1. Plan ahead. Avoid overloading extension cords and wall sockets by following the manufacturer’s limits for the number of light strings that can be safely connected together.
  2. Hang lighting correctly. Make sure that no cords will be pinched by furniture or placed under rugs, furniture or other appliances. If covered, cords can overheat or become frayed, increasing the risk of fire.
  3. Avoid electric hazards outdoors. Before climbing ladders to string outdoor lights, check for overhead power lines on your roof or attached to your home. Keep at least 10 feet away from overhead lines at all times. Never place yourself or any object such as a string of lights in a position that risks contact with a power line—the result can be fatal.
  4. Use GFCI outlets. Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). How do you know if it’s a GFCI? Look for the “test” and “reset” buttons. If circuits are not GFCI-protected, portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased.
  5. Check your environment outdoors. Before stringing lights on outdoor trees, make sure tree limbs haven’t grown into or near power lines. Branches, entire trees and even the ground adjacent to a tree can become energized when trees contact power lines.
  6. Put your tree in a safe location. Do not place your holiday tree near a heat source such as a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, making it more susceptible to fires caused by heat, flame or sparks.
  7. Check condition of lights. Inspect light strands for cracked or broken plugs, frayed insulation or bare wires. Worn cords can cause fires, so discard damaged sets of lights.
  8. Read the labels. Be sure to check each product label to see whether the lights are intended for indoor or outdoor use. Make sure lights have a tag indicating they have been evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory.

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