It’s that festive time of year when people are turning on holiday music and unpacking holiday decorations and lights. Some folks — full of holiday cheer — began their decorating well before Thanksgiving.
While lighting up for winter holidays dates back to ancient times, the tradition of stringing electric lights dates back to1895 when President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first electrically-lit Christmas tree in the White House.
Around 1890, strings of holiday lights were being mass-produced, but only the wealthy could afford them. At the turn of the 20th Century, they became popular in department stores and eventually, strings of lights were adorning retail shops and government buildings. Once electric holiday lights became more affordable for the average consumer, outdoor light displays on homes took off.
Holiday lights and displays have come a long way over the past 100 years. Candles on trees and in windows have given way to massive neighborhood displays that bring out the friendly competitive spirit between neighbors. Lights that were once bulky and caused energy bills to rise, have also seen improvements — newer LED lights are more energy efficient and last longer.
“Whether our customers are following generations of family holiday traditions or starting new ones, it’s always good to review safety precautions,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “If outdoor lighting is part of their holiday traditions, then it’s important to know there are some things you can do to safely enjoy this tradition and save some energy.”
Here are some basic safety and money-saving tips for Gulf Power customers when decorating for the holidays:
Deck the halls with outside lighting
- Hopefully, you won’t find a tangled mess of lights when opening the container in which you stored your lights in last year. Make sure you examine all the lights and cords, and if they are damaged, frayed or have cracked wires, toss them or recycle them and buy replacements. Or check with your local home improvement store on trade-in discounts on holiday lights.
- Make sure your lights are rated for outdoor use. Only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Only use lights that have fused plugs.
- Make sure to have a plan for the placement of your holiday lighting so that no more than three strands are strung together unless using LEDs. Gulf Power recommends using LED lighting because they use less power, are more efficient and don’t get hot, so they are a safer and more efficient choice for homeowners.
- While they may be more expensive, LED lights pay for themselves in the long run since they are cheaper to operate and last longer. Traditional lights such as the C-7 or C-9 lighting cost the most to operate, with each string costing up to $1 a day to power.
- Once you have a plan, arrange your decorations so that no outlet is overloaded and no cords will be pinched from going around corners. Be sure to plug lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). This type of outlet will shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent. We want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly!
- If you don’t have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoors for holiday seasons to come. Or, you can buy a portable outdoor unit from your local home improvement store.
- While decorating the outside of your home, never raise ladders, poles or other extended objects into or near power lines. If you are decorating an outside tree, check to make sure its limbs aren’t near power lines. Remember that no power line is safe to touch – ever.
- You can also lower your holiday energy use by putting your lights on a timer. Be sure to use a durable timer that is made to withstand the elements.
- And finally, use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights.
Moving the festivities indoors
When you move the reindeer games inside, remember to do so safely. 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.
- Always purchase electrical decorations and lights from reputable retailers. Use lights approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
- Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together. Again, consider purchasing LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
- Before decorating, determine how many outlets are available and where they are located. Plan your displays accordingly. You don’t want your guests or elves tripping over extension cords.
- Just like when you decorate outside, make sure you carefully inspect each inside electrical decoration. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire.
- Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
- For safety and to help save money, make sure to turn off all indoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.
- For peace of mind, make sure to check the batteries in your smoke detectors throughout your house.
For additional energy saving tips visit gulfpower.com.