Consumer Reports: Holiday lights safety

For many, a big part of getting into the holiday spirit means stringing up lights, either inside or outside your home, but some lights can be hazardous. Consumer Reports tells you how to stay safe.

If you're still using the same holiday lights from years ago, they're probably incandescent. And that means it's a good idea to check them for safety.

"You should check the wires and see if there is anything frayed. Make sure the plug is in good condition," said Consumer Reports Home Expert John Banta.

And make sure the wire is pliable, not brittle. If some bulbs are out, Consumer Reports says it's safe to replace them. But what if the lights just don't work?

"You can't repair them," Banta said. "They can cause a fire. Throw them away."

That's just one reason Jeff Staples only uses LED lights for his holiday display.

"They are much less problematic," Staples said. "The bulbs are solid so they don't break."

Jeff has been installing elaborate displays, music included, for the past five years. He programs the display through his computer.

"I really enjoy it," Staples. "I am outlining the perimeter of the house and putting up six three-foot snowflakes."

Even though he spent about $6,000 on the lights alone, he says you can't beat their efficiency.

"I can run the whole display for less than the cost of running a refrigerator," Staples said.

And Consumer Reports says they can last for a long time, something Jeff is counting on.

"The excitement of being able to interact with the kids," Staples said. "Maybe they can program their own display."

One more note on safety: If you continue to use incandescent light, Consumer Reports says never link several strings together, as this can cause a power overload.

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