(ANGIE'S LIST) - Lights are popping up on houses all over the Lowcountry and if you want to show your Christmas spirit, you need to keep a few safety measures in mind to avoid a holiday disaster.
Nearly 40 percent of all home fires in the U.S. occur from December through February. Christmas tree fires, in particular, are five times more deadly than other fires. When it comes to holiday decorating, we're often more concerned with the final look than anything else. But safety experts warn that overloading electrical outlets and using worn light strands is an invitation for disaster.
Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks says if you reuse the same lights year after year, be sure you check them before you put them up.
"Make sure you don't have any broken light bulbs or any frayed cords because, if you do, you need to replace those items," said Hicks.
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. All outside lights should plug into a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlet, which can be identified by the "test" and "reset" buttons on the face. They help prevent electric shock and potential fires.
A lot of older homes don't have GFCI outlets, but an electrician can convert them for about 200 dollars. A less expensive option is to purchase an adapter that plugs right into your standard outlet.
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.
"Watch for any other lights that might flicker because that's a sign that you've overloaded the circuit. And don't be like me who actually blew a circuit on Christmas Eve," said Hicks.
Hicks also 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.