Play it safe around holiday lights, save energy at the same time

  • Published
  • By Amy K. Frost
  • 95th Air Base Wing Civil Engineering
Christmas lights are beautiful and much safer than candles, but all that electricity can cause problems if not used properly. These lights can get hot enough to ignite and burn other decorations, including the Christmas tree. Decorating with lights often requires the use of a ladder and improper use could lead to an injury. Practice ladder safety when you are putting up Christmas lights.

When you put up Christmas lights this season - or holiday lights during any season - be sure to follow these safety tips and save energy at the same time.
· Choose lights that have been tested and deemed safe by a reputable testing laboratory. The best are Underwriters Laboratory or Electrotechnical Laboratory. Christmas lights deemed safe by these laboratories will note that on the packaging.
· Try to use the cooler-burning mini Christmas lights as opposed to the traditional larger bulbs. The older style bulbs burn much hotter and use more energy.
· Use only Christmas lights that have fuses in the plugs.
· Inspect each set of Christmas lights - old or new - for damage. Return or throw out any set with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections.
· Replace burned out bulbs promptly with bulbs of the same or lower wattage for safety and to save energy.
· Never hang Christmas lights on a metal tree. The tree can become charged with electricity and shock someone. The tree can also short out the Christmas lights and cause a fire.
· Want Christmas lights outdoors? Use outdoor Christmas lights. The packaging will state whether the lights are for indoor, outdoor or both.
· All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
· Use extension cords properly. Outdoor cords can be used inside or outside. Do not overload extension cords - they can get hot enough to start a fire.
· Stay away from power lines or feeder lines (these go from the pole to the house).
· Secure outside Christmas lights with insulated holders (never use tacks or nails) or run strings of lights through hooks.
· Never pull on a string of Christmas lights, it stresses the cords and can lead to fraying. Store Christmas lights loosely wrapped for the same reason.
· When you leave or go to bed at night, turn off your Christmas lights. This will also save energy.