The holidays are filled with the magical glimmer of lights – inside and out – that put a shine on the season, our homes and our hearts. Unfortunately, December is also fraught with increased injuries and fires related to holiday lighting mishaps. More than 5,000 holiday-related injuries occur each season, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Equally as bad, December is witness to the most number of home fires.
Most of these injuries and fires are preventable with simple safety precautions such as proper ladder use, safety-approved decorations, inspection of light strands and appropriate extension cords and electrical circuits.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s not too early to start planning your outdoor decorations in ways that are safe and energy efficient. “Understanding your electrical systems and mapping out your lighting plan can save you time and frustration,” said John Ward, owner of Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric. Licensed electricians can help you determine your options and ensure your electrical resources are not overloaded or improperly used.
With the addition of LED (light-emitting diode) lights, homeowners can now share the light of the season while saving money and energy. LEDs offer an alternative to the traditional incandescent bulbs. Some features of LED lights include:
- Running LED holiday lights on one 6-foot tree for 12 hours per day for 40 days can save 90% or more energy when compared to traditional incandescent holiday lights.
- LED holiday lights last longer; they have an operational life span of roughly 20,000 hours, enough to last for 40 holiday seasons
- LED holiday lights are cooler than incandescent bulbs, reducing the risk of fire and personal injury
- LED holiday lights are made in the same shapes and varieties as typical incandescent holiday lights, but LED holiday lights are more durable than incandescent bulbs, with the lamp shape typically made out of a solid plastic rather than glass
- Because they use less power, it is safer to connect multiple strings of LED holiday lamps end-to-end without overloading electrical socket.
- LED mini-lights utilize 1/10th the power of conventional incandescent mini-lights, thus 1,000 LED lights will use approximately .33 amps. This means you can install 363 strands of 100 LED mini-lights on a 15-amp circuit or 484 strands of 100 LED mini-lights on a 20-amp circuit.
Whether you hang the lights yourself or have a holiday lighting service do it for you, here are several important tips for a safe and trouble-free light display:
- Purchase lights that are UL approved for outdoor use. Though commercial-grade products are more expensive, they will perform better and last longer.
- Use only UL-approved extension cords rated for outdoor use.
- Use UL-approved outdoor timers — ideally, digital with battery backup.
- Chart the location of electrical outlets and make sure each has power.
- Determine the maximum electrical capacity per circuit, which is dependent upon the number of amps the circuit is rated. A typical home usually has 15- or 20-amp circuits. As you design your lighting plan, a good rule of thumb is to use only 80 percent of a circuit’s capacity (12 and 16 amps, respectively).
- Once you know your electrical limits, determine what type of lights to use, where they will be installed and which outlets they will be plugged into.
Safe holidays begin with planning. For an assessment of your home and its electrical capacity, contact Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric (www.ApplewoodFixIt.com) this holiday season. We hope you have a safe and bright holiday season.