When it comes to holiday decorating, we're often more concerned with the final look above all else, but safety experts warn overloading electrical outlets and using worn light strands is an invitation for disaster.
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Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List says, "Like most people, I like to keep my decorations from year to year, but you need to check them before you put 'em up each year to make sure you don't have any broken light bulbs or any frayed cords because, if you do, you need to replace those items."
Even if you're using new lights, check for the U-L label and use them only as approved. Don't place indoor lights outside, and all outside lights should plug into a ground fault circuit interrupter or G-F-C-I outlet, which can be identified by the "test" and "reset" buttons on the face.
GFCI, Electrician Sammie Bracken explains use of a G-F-C-I outlet prevents electric shock and potential fires, "They determine how much load is on the hot wire and how much load is on the neutral wire. If those two things are balanced, it allows it to work. If there's too much on the black wire and not enough on the white wire, as in when someone is being shocked, there's an imbalance and it will actually shut off."
Lots of older homes don't have G-F-C-I outlets, but an electrician can convert them for about $200. A less expensive option is to purchase an adapter that plugs right into your standard outlet.
Also, if you've had your lights for a while, think about getting something new.
When it comes to connecting light strands together, experts say you should limit that to two or three unless they are L-E-D lights, then several can be linked together. Angie recommends replacing your lights every few years if they are showing signs of wear and that it's a good idea to have a professional inspect your breaker panel if you have any concerns about overloading a circuit.
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