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The holiday season brings the warm glow of lights into growingly dark days.  Putting up these lights isn’t effortless – there’s the untangling of strings, checking for broken and burnt out bulbs, wrapping trees and netting bushes, outlining eaves and tracing railings – but there are a few things that can make the process easier and safer.

Add Outlets

Adding extra outlets around your house will hide cords and enhance safety by preventing tripping hazards and keeping those long cords uncompromised by snow shovels and foot traffic.  Certain places are ideal for extra outlets during the holiday season. 

An outlet near the mantel can add the sparkle of string lights in garland, while one in the floor beneath a couch can be used for a Christmas tree, and extra outside outlets near the eaves can light the strings outlining your home. 

These extra outlets come in handy year-round.  Outlets near the eaves can be repurposed in January and February for plugging in heat tape and preventing ice dams.  Floor outlets can be used for lamps on side tables, and outlets near the mantel can be used to lite accessories or plug in electronic equipment.

Decorating Chandeliers and Pendants

Decorating chandeliers and pendant lights for the holidays is becoming more and more popular – they’re topped with evergreen boughs and pinecones, ribbons and ornaments, thin berry garlands and strings of pearls, tree twigs and snowflakes, tulle and tinsel. 

Garnishing the centerpiece of the room is a natural way to bring in the feel of the season, but there are precautions to take.  When decorating light fixtures, be sure to add only lightweight décor. Also, even though light glistening off glossy surfaces is eye-catching, don’t get décor too close to bulbs.

Choosing your strings

There are many styles of string lights available –lantern style light strings, globe light strings, multicolored or white mini light strings, icicle strings, fairy light strings – it can be a bit overwhelming.

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When looking for the best string lights for you, consider the warmth of color, how bright you want the lights to be, how manageable the wires are – some tangle easily – and how well the wires are concealed – you want to see lights, not wires.  LED string lights are most popular, as they’re safer, more durable, last longer, and draw small amounts of electricity when compared to traditional incandescent lights.

LED fairy lights are flexible and adjustable as the lights themselves are sealed in the copper wiring. The downside of fairy lights is that they cannot be connected end to end, so if you have to cover a large area, you will need multiple strings on batteries or multiple outlets to plug into.

Whether the string has large globe lights or tiny minis, remember that incandescent filaments break easier than LEDs.  That being said, people often judge incandescent lights as radiating the warmest colors, giving them nostalgic appeal, and their upfront costs are less than LEDs.

Safety first

No matter what style of string lights you choose, there are some simple precautions to take when decorating.  First, be sure to throw out strings of lights with broken sockets or frayed or cracked cords, and replace bulbs that have burnt out – one empty socket can overheat the entire strand.

When decorating the outdoors, be sure all lights and extension cords are UL-Rated for weather-resistance.  Also, strings of lights should never be attached with nails or staples as they can cut through the wire’s insulation and cause a fire.  Choose gutter clips or light duty staples instead.  Permanent light clips will save you time and money if you hang lights every year.

Don’t connect more than 5 or 6 strands of lights together end to end as it may overload the circuit – this is especially important when using incandescent lights.    

Lastly, don’t run extension cords over sidewalks or driveways that are shoveled – if the blade of a shovel hits the cord it can damage the integrity of its insulation and potentially cause a fire.

When all’s said and done…

Store your string lights rolled up in a ball.  Sound crazy?  It might, but it’s the best way to store them.  Wrap them around your hand a few times in one direction, then turn 90 degrees and repeat.  The longer the strand of lights the more difficult it will be to wind it up and store it – something to consider when you’re purchasing new strings.  Also, string lights are best stored in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags as the cardboard will absorb leftover moisture and lengthen the life of the string.

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