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Southern Company: Making the Season Merry, and Bright

Gulf Power's holiday lighting tips to to save you money and keep your holidays safe.

Originally Published by Southern Company.

Stringing holiday lights inside and outside of your home is as much a holiday tradition as singing carols, baking treats and shopping for that special present for a loved one.


Winter holiday lighting dates back to ancient times when the light source was candles. Zoom ahead to the late 1890s and we see the first mass produced electric lights. Yesterday's bulky, energy-hungry incandescents are now being swapped our for dazzling, music-synced LED displays Clark Griswold would envy.

With LED lights, holiday decorating can be energy efficient. According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • They use up to 80 percent less energy and allow for up to 25 strings to be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.
  • They last much longer — up to 40 holiday seasons.
  • And they are cooler than incandescents, reducing the risk of fire.

"Whether you're using a few strings of incandescents or going all out with a spectacular lighting display, it's always good to review safety precautions when holiday lighting is part of your holiday tradition," said Kimberly Blair, Gulf Power spokesperson.

Here are some basic safety tips from Gulf Power to better enjoy this holiday tradition and save energy and money.

Deck the halls with outside lighting

  • Examine all the lights and cords, and if they are damaged, frayed or have cracked wires, toss them or recycle themand buy replacements. Or check with your local home improvement store on trade-in discounts on holiday lights.
  • Make sure your lights are rated for outdoor use. Only use lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Only use lights that have fused plugs.
  • Have a plan for the placement of your holiday lighting so that no more than three strands are strung together unless using LEDs. Gulf Power recommends using LED lighting because they use less power, are more efficient and don't get hot, so they are a safer and more efficient choice for homeowners.
  • While they may be more expensive, LED lights pay for themselves in the long run since they are cheaper to operate and last longer. Traditional lights such as the C-7 or C-9 lighting cost the most to operate, with each string costing up to $1 a day to power.
  • Once you have a plan, arrange your decorations so that no outlet is overloaded and no cords will be pinched from going around corners. Be sure to plug lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). This type of outlet will shut the circuit down if there is overcurrent. We want your lights to shine, not sparks to fly!
  • If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoors for holiday seasons to come. Or, you can buy a portable outdoor unit from your local home improvement store.
  • While decorating the outside of your home, never raise ladders, poles or other extended objects into or near power lines. If you are decorating an outside tree, check to make sure its limbs aren't near power lines. Remember that no power line is safe to touch — ever.
  • You can also lower your holiday energy use by putting your lights on a timer. Be sure to use a durable timer that is made to withstand the elements.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights.

Moving the festivities indoors

When you move the reindeer games inside, remember to do so safely. While holiday lighting and electrical decorations do contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used safely.

  • Always purchase electrical decorations and lights from reputable retailers. Use lights approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights together. Again, consider purchasing LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
  • Before decorating, determine how many outlets are available and where they are located. Plan your displays accordingly. You don't want your guests, Santa or elves tripping over extension cords.
  • Similar to outdoor decorating, make sure to carefully inspect each inside electrical decoration. Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires and loose connections may cause a serious shock or start a fire.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • For safety and to help save money, make sure to turn off all indoor electrical decorations before leaving home or going to sleep.
  • For peace of mind, make sure to check the batteries in your smoke detectors throughout your house.

For additional energy saving tips visit gulfpower.com.

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