Steal an idea from Santa this holiday season: Check everything twice. That’s important as you use electricity. Wise use of power can affect your health, safety, and bank account.

ECC checked various sources about the ways to improve our holiday use of energy. We’ll highlight a few and make sure you have the links that provide useful information.

Inspect everything. By far the major advice we saw is, Inspect Everything. “Before using any holiday decoration, ensure that you inspect it closely. You will be looking for missing or broken bulbs, plugs, or sockets that are cracked or damaged, wires that are loose or bare, and any other type of damage.” Nearly half of all Christmas tree fires involve electrical malfunctions. (Source)

Duke Energy says, “Before plugging in last year’s holiday lights, remember to inspect and throw out any that are damaged. Frayed cords and missing bulbs could start a fire.”

Decorations can deteriorate in the heat or cold of storage, or as they were packed away, or chewed on by guests in an attic. Check everything. Maybe it’s wise to replace a cord instead of trying to fix it.

Don’t burn the candle at either end. Maybe it’s time to electrify your holiday candles.

  • Falling asleep was a factor in 10% percent of the home candle fires and 15% of the associated deaths.
  • On average, 21 home candle fires were reported per day.
  • Three of every five (60%) of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle.

That from the  National Fire Protection Association.

Good information from Carolina Country

Carolina Country says, “Lit candles should not be placed in windows where blinds or curtains could catch fire. Do not leave a lit menorah or any other lit candle unattended. Place your menorah on a sturdy surface, out of the reach of children and pets.”

The Red Cross says that Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are the three top days for candle fires.


Inside or outside decorations? Make sure that you use the proper lights and decorations for outdoors. Shock and fire hazards can result from indoor lights being used outside. Underwriter’s Lab marks show proper usage: “Look for the UL Listing mark on the tree’s individual light strings, located near the plug. When using light strings on an artificial tree that is not pre-lit, check to make sure that the light strings are certified and have a gold holographic UL label. Note that the green UL Mark on the tag or near the plug means that the lights have been evaluated for indoor use only, and the red UL Mark means that the lights have been evaluated for indoor/outdoor use.”

Don’t just inspect your old lights, either. Check new ones, too. Shipping can sometimes cause damage.

Outside – look for power lines. “When hanging lights around your roof line or in trees, be sure to survey the area for overhead power lines and maintain at least a ten-foot distance,” says Dayton Power and Light, which has a good website about safety. Keep your distance from power lines. Image, right, is an example … steer clear with your decorations and equipment to hang decorations.

Mount lights carefully. When hanging strings of lights remember that staples and nails can pierce the wire covering. Use proper wire holders instead.

Aluminum trees – retro … new again?

Be careful with metal holiday trees. “Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.” (Source) Aluminum conducts electricity. Add light and power and there can be a problem. “The smart and easy thing to do with vintage aluminum trees: Hang ornaments…and use a color wheel. In fact, it seems that color wheels were devised to get right around the electric-hazard issue of stringing lights onto aluminum.” (Source)

Then, there is money, and good news. LED lights consume far less electricity than incandescent bulbs. The US Department of Energy says not only do LED holiday lights consume less electricity, but they also have the following advantages:

  • Safer: LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.
  • Sturdier: LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are much more resistant to breakage.
  • Longer lasting: The same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now.
  • Easier to install: Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.
  • And cheaper:
Estimated cost of electricity to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days (10 seasons)
Type of Light Cost of light
Incandescent C-9 lights $10.00
LED C-9 Lights $0.27
Incandescent Mini-lights $2.74
LED Mini-lights $0.82
Estimated cost* of operating lights
Incandescent C-9 lights $122.19
LED C-9 lights $17.99
Incandescent Mini-lights $55.62
LED Mini-lights $33.29
*Assumes 50 C-9 bulbs and 200 mini-lights per tree, with electricity at $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (AEO 2012 Residential Average). Prices of lights based on quoted prices for low volume purchases from major home improvement retailers. All costs have been discounted at an annual rate of 5.6%. Life span assumed to be three seasons (1,500 hours) for non-LED lights.

Finally, here is something from the folks at Electrical Safety Foundation International. They say, “Statistics show that sales of electrical products increase during December. This increase in electrical product purchases, combined with the advent of colder weather in many parts of the country, increases the likelihood of electrical fires, electrocutions, and injuries.

More home fires occur during the winter months than during any other part of the year. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fire result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage.” Check EDFI’s infographic below.