Reminders of holiday light safety

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There is a thrill that springs into my heart this time of year for many reasons.

One reason is because I love to spend time with my family and friends. Another reason is because I enjoy looking at Christmas decorations. One of the biggest Christmas decorations everyone recognizes around central Indiana is the Circle of Lights.

Therefore, if you want to recreate your own "Circle of Lights," at home, you might want to pay attention to the rest of this article about holiday light safety.

Before you purchase your lights, look for ones that have UL or TEL on the label. Those labels mean that the product has been tested by an independent laboratory that is recognized by OSHA and satisfy the minimum standards for product safety.

Additionally, look on the label to make sure that they are designated for outdoor use.

Also look for strings of lights that are miniature, low-heat producing bulbs since they will require less amperage and are less likely to overload electrical outlets.

When plugging your lights into an outside electrical plug, try to make sure it is a three-prong grounded plug and is on an electrical circuit protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

You can purchase portable outdoor GFCIs at hardware stores. Similarly, if you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a three-prong cord that is labeled for outdoor use. Additionally, use the shortest length of extension cord that you can use to get the job done. By using a cord too long, you will be using more wattage than is really needed.

When hanging your lights, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on how many can be plugged together safely. If the instructions do not specify, then you should string no more than three strands together.

Never string lights that have any frayed, loose or bare wires and/or damaged bulbs or sockets. If is always best to discard any damaged light strands.

Likewise, never use nails or staple guns to hang your lights.

Both of these products can easily cut or damage the insulation and conductors, ruining your lights, and causing a safety hazard.

There are several different types of hanging devices available at local retailers that can help you hang your lights on your guttering, roof, etc.

Above all else, when putting up outdoor Christmas lights, remember to be extremely careful when using a ladder. Always have someone else with you that can help hold the ladder and call for help if the need arises. Additionally, never climb a ladder that has ice or mud on it as it can cause the steps to be even trickier to stand on.

Not all Christmas lights are displayed on the outside of homes, businesses and on trees.

Many individuals will decorate their Christmas tree with lights as well.

When decorating your tree, remember to use indoor or outdoor lights that have been tested for safety.

Once again, do not use any strands that have frayed, loose or bare wires and/or damaged bulbs or sockets. Additionally, if you have a metallic tree, do not use electrical lights.

Finally, keep "bubbling" lights away from children. These lights are very tempting for children to touch and can break easily, spilling their hazardous chemical onto your carpet, tree and child.

Christmas is a great time of year to be shared with family and friends. As you look for things to do with your loved ones this year, think about maybe taking a nice drive to see the wonderful Christmas decorations your neighbors have put up. While doing so, realize all the dangers that they had to avoid while making such a beautiful display.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Dec. 7 -- Crop Management Conference, the Beef House, Covington, 8:45 a.m. For more information about registration fees and PARP, call 1-765-762-3231,

* Dec. 11 -- Pinecone Birdfeeder Fest, McCormick's Creek State Park, 1 p.m., and

* Dec. 14 -- PARP Program, Cloverdale High School cafeteria, 6 p.m. Cost $10.