Holiday Energy Saving and Safety Tips
While December is a festive month, it also is usually the month with the most house fires. Overloaded circuits and extension cords powering holiday decorations and careless use of candles are among the two most common causes of fires.
Consider these ideas when decorating your home:
1. Check the electrical rating of each string of lights before you plug it in. The newer "mini" lights are often only 1 or 2 amps per string, but some of the larger lamps (especially the older ones) may be as much as 7 or 8 amps per string. Since these lamps are stored away most of the year, they may become damaged from temperature changes in storage areas (such as alternately hot and cold attics), so inspect the insulation on each cord before plugging it in. If in doubt, purchase a new UL listed string of lights with a lower amperage rating. The newer lamps not only draw less power but are also safer around kids because they do not get as hot as the older ones. Cooler lamps are also less likely to catch combustible items near them on fire.
2. Choose extension cords carefully. Do not plug multiple strings of lights into the small "lamp" type extension cords. (These are often the small brown or white colored ones.) Use good quality UL Listed, heavy gauge cords, and check the amperage rating. Add up the amperage rating of each string of lights that will be plugged into the cord, and make sure that it does not exceed 80 percent of the cord's maximum rating.
3. If your lights trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse, be VERY careful before just resetting the breaker or replacing the fuse. Household circuits are normally only rated for 15 or 20 amps. It's very easy to overload a circuit with holiday lights, especially if you use a lot of outdoor lights. If you have a lot of lights plugged in, it may be necessary to divide them up, with some plugged into one circuit and some plugged into another.
4. Do not leave indoor holiday lights turned on when you're asleep or away from home.
5. According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles were responsible for 18,000 U.S. house fires in 2003, killing 180 Americans. The most common causes of candle-related fires: Allowing children to light or play with candles, using candles in bedrooms (where people often fall asleep with them lit), allowing candles to burn unattended, allowing candles to burn too low, placing candles too near combustible materials, and leaving candles burning in any location accessible to pets. Having too many candles going in too many places in the house is recipe for disaster, because it's very easy to forget that some of them are burning.