Yes, it’s time for unraveling lights, stringing garland and flipping the switch with fingers crossed that all bulbs work. Decorating season is here and there is no better time to replace old products, review safety and save energy.
There are many options for holiday decorations, especially when it comes to lighting. LED lighting can save energy and money by consuming 75 percent less electricity. The traditional 100 light string can use around 40 watts of energy. Multiply that by the amount of connected light strings and the energy usage can add up fast!
Here’s a quick comparison between light emitting diodes (LEDs) and incandescent holiday lights:
• LED lights last up to 20 times longer than traditional incandescent lights.
• LEDs generate less heat – which translates into greater energy-efficiency.
• LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass and are much more durable.
• LEDs are initially more expensive, but will recover some of the cost through energy savings.
• Incandescent holiday lights burn more brightly than LEDs.
According to a study from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), more than 86 percent of Americans decorate their homes as part of their winter holiday celebrations. Almost two-thirds of respondents use electric lights in their indoor decorating scheme, while more than half use lighted decorations outside their homes. More than 60 percent of those who decorate their homes utilize at least one extension cord. While holiday lighting and electrical decorations do contribute to the splendor of the
season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used safely.
The National Fire Protection Association says holiday lights and other decorative lighting with line voltage are involved in an estimated average of 860 home structure fires each year. These fires cause an average of
nine civilian deaths, 13 civilian injuries and $9 million in direct property damage. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in two-thirds of those fires.
When planning and implementing your lighting design, keep these lighting safety tips in mind:
• Unlike incandescent bulbs, which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch – this indicates greater energy-efficiency.
• When hanging lights outdoors, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder.
• Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
• Never drape anything over a light bulb or lamp shade.
• Avoid using candles. Consider using battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles.
• Make sure all extension cords & decorations used for outdoor displays are marked for outdoor use.
• Match power needs (amperage) of electrical products with amperage rating of extension cords.
• Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). If circuits are not GCFI-protected, portable GCFIs can be purchased and require no special knowledge or equipment to be installed.
• Inspect all lights, decorations and extension cords for damage before using.
• Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, the house or other firm supports to protect them from wind damage, but take care not to attach the lights in a way that could damage the cord’s insulation.
• Keep extension cords and light strings clear of standing water.
• Make sure spotlights used to illuminate decorations are well-ventilated, protected from weather and a safe distance away from flammable items.
• Use caution when decorating near power lines. Keep yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet from power lines.
• Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. 23827002
• Make sure cords are not pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture.
After the holidays are over, keep in mind that holiday decorations are meant for temporary use. Leaving your decorations up for extended periods leaves wires unnecessarily exposed to the elements, which can decrease the product’s shelf life and increase the risk of electrical hazards. Remember that live Christmas trees continue to dry out making them very flammable. Always unplug decorations by using the gripping area. Pulling on the cord could damage the wire and present a fire or shock hazard. When taking down lights, inspect the wiring and discard any that have cracked, frayed or appear to have damaged wire insulation. It is also important to store indoor and outdoor decorations separately and keep them in a dry area that is not accessible by children or pets.
For more information on electrical fire prevention, visit www.esfi.org.