It’s that festive time of year when many people are cranking up holiday music and unpacking holiday decorations and lights.

While lighting up for winter holidays dates back to ancient times, the tradition of stringing electric lights dates back to 1894 when President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House. At the turn of the 20th century, they became popular in department stores and eventually, strings of lights adorned retail shops and government buildings. Once electric holiday lights became more affordable for the average consumer, outdoor light displays on homes took off.

“Whether following family holiday traditions or starting new ones, it’s always good to review safety precautions,” said Sarah Gatewood, Gulf Power spokesperson. “If outdoor lighting is part of your holiday traditions, then it’s important to know 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:

Deck the halls with outside lighting

  • Hopefully, you won’t find a tangled mess of lights when opening the container where you stored your lights last year. Make sure you examine all the lights and cords, and if they are damaged, frayed or have cracked wires, trash them and buy replacements. Or check with your local home improvement store for 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 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. This type of outlet will shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent. We want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly!
  • 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 ever safe to touch.
  • 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.

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, bare wires and loose connections can cause a serious shock or 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.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!