Christmas Light Safety Tips

There are several things you need to do to ensure that your Christmas lights are safe before you hang them up.

  • Verify Proper Rating – Bargain lights aren’t a good deal if they pose a fire hazard. Only use lights that have been tested and rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Strings of lights that have a safety rating are clearly marked, both on the packaging and with labels attached to the electrical cords.
  • Check for Fraying – When you remove your holiday lights from storage, check the cords to make sure they are not frayed or otherwise damaged. Hanging lights with damaged cords can lead to an electrical short. This can damage your other lights and holiday decorations, as well as potentially lead to a fire. If you discover damaged strings of lights, throw them away.
  • Use as Directed – There is a big difference between indoor holiday lights and outdoor holiday lights. Before hanging lights, make sure that you are using the fixtures only in the environment in which they were designed to be used.
  • Choose Locations Carefully – Avoid hanging holiday lights near any item that poses a potential fire hazard, such as candles, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. Make sure bulbs aren’t too close too loose paper or any other flammable materials.
  • Hang Carefully – Never use tacks, staples, or nails to hang up your holiday light display. Instead, use insulated holders designed especially for this purpose.

Once the Lights are in Place

Holiday light safety doesn’t end once the lights are up and ready to go.

  • Select Extension Cords Wisely – There’s a good chance that you are going to need extension cords to complete your holiday lighting display. Make sure you have a sufficient quantity and length of grounded extension cords for the amount of the lights you plan to use. Do not overload extension cords with more wattage than they are designed to accommodate. It’s also important to verify that any extension cords you are planning to use outside are rated for exterior use.
  • Place Extension Cords Properly – Make sure that cords are placed so as to avoid posing a tripping hazard. Verify that they are not pulled taut, so there isn’t an elevated risk of them pulling over your Christmas tree or other decorations.
  • Turn Lights Off When Away – Do not leave holiday lights on when your house is unattended or when everyone in the home is asleep. In the event that a problem develops with your light display, it’s essential that someone be on hand and alert to react quickly to avoid damage, a serious fire, and injuries.
  • Bulb Replacement – When bulbs burn out, it’s important to replace them right away. It’s dangerous to have light strings plugged in with empty sockets. Be sure that the replacement bulbs you select are the correct wattage.

May you and yours have a safe and wonderful Holiday Season!

What Light Bulb should I use?

Ever have trouble deciding which bulb to buy? What lasts longer vs. what is more cost effective? Here are some answers:

Incandescent
If you have incandescent lights around, you’ll notice a tungsten filament inside the bulb that heats up to produce the desired light. The heated filament (around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit) produces a warm, yellowish light.

Standard
Standard incandescent lights are very similar to the ones invented by Thomas Edison in the 1800s. Yet they are far from efficient, only converting around 5-10% of the energy they consume into light. The remaining 90% of the energy gets lost to heat. This may feel like an OK trade-off in the winter when you want heat in your home, but in the summer, your air conditioner will have work harder to dissipate the extra heat.

Halogen
Halogen lights still use a tungsten filament, but it is surrounded by a small amount of halogen gas (contained in a quartz capsule). This allows the heat to be used more efficiently, producing a more whitish glow than standard incandescent bulbs. If you like the glow of incandescent lights but want a more energy-efficient bulb, consider halogen lights. They work great for task and accent lighting.

Fluorescent
If you have any fluorescent lights in your home, they are probably in the garage or laundry room. You can recognize them easily by the long glass tube that houses the electric current and the distinctive buzzing sound they make when switched on.

While older fluorescent lights are known for humming and flickering, modern fluorescent lights can get rid of these unwanted inconsistencies. Depending on which type of fluorescent light you have and how it was installed, they can last anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 hours and output 2-10 times as much light per watt as an incandescent light.

While fluorescent lights can create nice, warm color tones, keep in mind that they contain small amounts of mercury and should NEVER be thrown away in the trash. They are also very fragile and have been known to break easily.

Compact Fluorescent
You may have heard of CFLs in the past couple of years when referring to more energy-efficient light bulbs. CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp (or light).

They were designed to replace standard incandescent lights due to their improved performance, lower costs, longer lifespans, and smaller sizes. Usually, when homeowners and businesses are looking for ways to reduce energy costs and improve the lighting in their indoor spaces, they turn to either CFLs or LEDs since they last longer and offer greater energy savings.

When CFLs first came out, consumers were confused about which CFL to buy since you had to find one that fit the wattage and pin configurations. Recently, however, light bulb manufacturers have improved their designs to give customers more choice and knowledge in selecting CFL replacements.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)
When people normally talk about improving the energy efficiency of their lighting, they are thinking of LEDs. For many years, LEDs were used for exit signs, appliances, and digital displays. Now, they can be used for anything from flashlights to Christmas lights.

If you don’t like replacing your light bulbs, replace them with energy-efficient LEDs. And if you don’t like the whitish color temperature of LEDs, look for warm white LEDs for a warmer glow. LEDs now come in a wide variety of colors, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that fits your needs. Phillips Hue is a popular LED option because you can change the color range easily with the same bulb.

Keep in mind that when shopping for LEDs, the wattage will be completely different from what you may be used to with incandescent. Since wattage measures how much energy the light bulb draws and not “brightness,” the replacement LED will have a much lower wattage for an equivalent brightness. Look for lumens and degrees Kelvin to determine light output.

Lumens measure light output.

Kelvin measures the color of the light, or color temperature. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler the color; a lower Kelvin numbers translates to a warmer color.

Watts are standard units of power of electrical power.