Decorate safely

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Illinois residents can make the holidays brighter and greener by decking the halls with Energy Star qualified decorative lighting, according to Ameren Illinois.

Energy Star qualified holiday lighting strings consume 75 percent less electricity than old-fashioned conventional incandescent light strings. Also, Ameren Illinois customers can extend the life of their holiday lights by up to 10 times when they switch to Energy Star qualified lighting.

If all holiday light strings sold in the U.S. this year are Energy Star qualified, electricity usage could be reduced by more than 700 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), an amount equal to the annual electricity usage of more than 70,000 single family homes. In addition, Energy Star estimates that greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by an amount equivalent to the emissions from about 100,000 automobiles.

Many Energy Star qualified light strings feature LED (light emitting diode) technology. LEDs are exceptionally efficient. For example, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power as many as 140 LEDs, the number of LEDs in two 24-foot strings of lights.

Other advantages of Energy Star qualified light strings:

· Cool to the touch, reducing the risk of injury and fires.

· Independently tested to meet strict electrical safety requirements.

· Feature three-year warranties.

· Lights labeled for outdoor use have been weather tested.

· Some models now have dimming and color shifting features.

Consumers also may want to consider solar-powered outdoor holiday decorations, which are especially useful when an outdoor electrical outlet is not readily available. Solar-power decorations should be placed in sunny locations to assure their batteries are properly recharged.

Additional energy savings tips plus information about incentives and rebates are available at the Ameren Illinois Act On Energy® website (ActOnEnergy.com).

Ameren Illinois customers are reminded that prevention is the key to electrical safety during the holiday season.

Electrical safety tips include:

· Use lights that have been safety tested by an independent laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). For outdoor lighting, use lights certified for outdoor use and use heavy duty outdoor certified extension cords.

· Never overload electrical circuits or outlets.

· Never use more than three standard light sets per extension cord

· Plug outdoor cords into GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets. It is recommended that GFCI outlets be used for indoor lights, as well.

· Keep electrical connections off the ground and away from water.

· Keep outside lights, decorations and ladders away from overhead utility lines.

· Only use insulated staples to attach extension cords and lights to wood. Never use nails, wire, tacks or regular staples.

·  Make certain lights, decorations and other electrical devices are disconnected before installing or working on them.

·  Never leave holiday lights on when away from home or overnight.

·  Do not place cords under rugs or carpets, where cords may be damaged when walked upon or where someone may trip over them.

·  Never replace a fuse with one designed for a higher amperage or with a coin. A fuse that repeatedly blows or a circuit-breaker that repeatedly trips is an indication of an overloaded circuit or other problem. If the situation continues after unplugging lights or devices, have the circuit inspected by an electrician.