Bright ideas for holiday lighting
Today's holiday lights use energy efficiently and still provide enough light output to brighten the season. Keep these safety tips in mind:
If you're purchasing a light set, make sure it has been approved by Underwriters Laboratories. The UL label guarantees the set has been inspected and meets safety requirements. Also, make sure you get the right set--for indoor use, outdoor use, or both.
Do not overload electrical circuits. Circuits in older homes carry a maximum of 15 amps or 1,800 watts each. Circuits in most newer homes can carry 20 amps or 2,400 watts each. To figure out your holiday lighting load, multiply the number of bulbs by the number of watts per bulb. (If you're not sure about the wattage, play it safe and use 10 watts per bulb in your calculation.) Be sure to include house lamps, appliances, and other electrical equipment on the same circuit.
Before you decorate, check light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets or cracked insulation. If you find defects, replace the entire set.
Hot bulbs can ignite dry branches. Avoid fire by keeping your natural tree well watered and keeping extension cords and light sets away from the water. Light the tree when you are at home and awake to enjoy it. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Avoid short-circuiting from rain, sleet, or snow by covering outdoor plugs and connector joints with plastic wrap and sealing the ends with electrical tape.
For outdoor lighting, use a ground fault circuit interrupter on each circuit. If current leaks through frayed or damaged wires, the interrupter shuts it off. Most hardware stores carry these at a cost of $7 to $10.
If you have questions about energy-efficient home lighting, call the Washington State Energy Office's Hotline at 389-4700 in Seattle, or 1-800-962-9731 statewide.