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The holiday season is in full swing, gifts are wrapped, recipes collected, and those strings of lights untangled. However, this popular decoration can be dangerous if not handled properly. We’ve gathered some tips on how to stay safe and festive this season:

  • Make sure your lights are made for the right environment. UL approved lights have a color-coded holographic mark on the package indicating whether it’s safe for indoor use only or both indoor and outdoor use. Indoor-only lights are not made to withstand outside conditions. Any extension cords should also be UL approved.
  • Consider purchasing LED lights if possible. They use less energy and don’t get as hot as traditional incandescent lights.
  • Before hanging stringed lights up, examine them for any damage. Burnt out bulbs can be replaced with new ones of the same wattage. Any cracked cords, frayed ends, or loose connections can cause electric shock and fires. If they cannot be safely repaired, don’t use them.
  • Avoid using damaged cords and crowded outlets to help protect against electric shock and fire hazards. When installing lights, make sure the cords are not being flattened or squeezed by doors, windows, or furniture in a way that could damage the cord’s insulation. All outdoor lights should also be secured to protect from wind damage.
  • If you’re planning on stringing some lights on a live Christmas tree, make sure you keep it watered. If the tree gets too dry and the lights too hot, it could start a fire.
  • When you’re done enjoying the holiday festivities for the day, turn off all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations before going to sleep or leaving home. Aside from wasting energy and potentially shorting, the lights might break or fall and cause a fire.
  • At the end of the season, make sure you store your decorations away properly. A sealed container can protect against water damage and critters that might nibble at the cords. If rodents are chewing at the cords while they are up, as was the case a few years ago with the Boston Common trees, you can try an animal-friendly repellent as a solution.

Holiday lights are a great way to spread cheer and celebrate the season as long as you’re keeping in mind the dangers. For more information on how to use your decorations, check any instructions or manuals that came with the package, or contact the manufacturer. Each brand of lights is different, so make sure you know how to use yours.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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