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As many families begin to sort through their storage for blinking garlands and mechanically waving Santas, they may realize they have more decorations than nearby electrical outlets.


Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist and interim associate dean, said that before stretching extension cords all around the room in the effort to deck the halls, be sure to keep electrical safety in mind.


“Extension cords are a great option so you can get all of your favorite decorations plugged in. However, using them safely is paramount,” Peek said. “Obviously, you need to keep electrical safety in mind all year long, but it’s essential at the holiday season because so many extra things require electricity.”


She recommended consumers use only lights and extension cords that are safety certified by a recognized testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Also, if reusing lights from previous seasons, be sure to check for damage first.


“If you find some lights with frayed wires, loose connections or broken or cracked sockets, throw them away,” she said. “These are dangerous and can cause a fire.”


Additional guidance includes:

  • Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which also include bulb replacement.
  • Keep indoor lights in and outdoor lights out – the products are designed for different environments.
  • Take decorative lights down when the holidays are over. They are not intended for prolonged use, particularly in changing weather conditions.
  • Never overload wall outlets or extension cords. Connect lights to power strips that have several outlets and a built-in circuit breaker.

 “Extension cords should never be run under carpet or rugs. The cords could become frayed after being walked on repeatedly, which can be a fire hazard,” Peek said. “Also, be careful about putting extension cords across walkways as they can be a tripping hazard. Try to run cords along the wall.”


With a few extra devices plugged into the outlets, you might see a spike in your utility bill. To help save on the electric bill, use LED lights because they use about 90% less electricity than a standard string of incandescent lights. LED holiday lights may be more expensive but will pay for themselves over time. Consumers also can take advantage of sales after the holidays and stock up for next year. 


“Lighting and decorations are a big part of making the holiday festive, and when used safely and properly, they can be enjoyed all season long,” Peek said.

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