Decorating with ENERGY STAR®-qualified LED holiday lights can help consumers save money and improve the safety of their holiday decorations. That's because LEDs are cool to the touch, unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, and LEDs do not have moving parts, making them less of a fire hazard.
ENERGY STAR-qualified LED lights can also save money because they last up to 10 times longer and use around 70 percent less energy than incandescent decorative strands. According to energystar.gov, if all decorative light strings sold in America this year were ENERGY STAR-qualified, the country would save more than 700 million kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 100,000 cars!
However, safety shouldn't be limited to lights. Consumers need to be aware--hospital emergency rooms treat more than 10,000 people a year for injuries resulting from falls, cuts, shocks and burns or fires caused by holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, on average, 250 fires each year begin with Christmas trees. An additional 170 fires begin with holiday and decorative lights.
Ameren Missouri's safety advisors say statistics like these show the holiday season is a time to pay special attention to electric and natural gas safety.
Here are some safety tips for electricity offered by Ameren Missouri:
· Inspect all holiday lights for broken or cracked sockets. Look for frayed or bare wires, loose connections or damaged plugs. Never jerk on wires. Throw away damaged light sets. When possible use LED lights.
· Never overload electrical circuits or outlets. Use Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) certified surge protector strips if multiple outlets are required.
· Avoid walking on extension cords or placing them under rugs where they can heat up or cause someone to trip.
· Use a power strip as an easy way to turn off multiple lights.
· Never place trees or decorations too close to a heat source.
· Never string together more than three strands of incandescent holiday lights.
· Keep holiday lights away from children and pets. Push the wires inward toward the center of the tree.
· For outdoor lighting, use UL-certified lights approved for outdoor use. Also, use heavy duty UL-certified outdoor extension cords.
· Plug all cords – outdoor and indoor - into GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets.
· Do not run outdoor light wiring or outdoor extension cords through doors and windows where they can be damaged.
· Use a timer to prevent lights from remaining on during the day – inside and out.
· Keep electrical connections off the ground and away from water.
· Only use insulated staples to attach extension cords and lights to wood. Never use nails, tacks or regular staples.
· Make certain lights, decorations and other electrical devices are disconnected when installing or working on them.
· Never leave Christmas tree lights on when no one is home.
· Use flame-resistant ornaments and decorations around the Christmas tree.
· When selecting a live tree, make certain the branches are fresh and the trunk is sticky with sap. Needles should bend, not break, and should be hard to pull off branches. Keep the tree holder base filled with water.
· If you select an artificial tree, select one that has been tested and labeled as being fire-resistant. Trees with built-in electric systems should have the UL certification label.
· 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. If the problem continues after unplugging lights or devices, have the circuit inspected by an electrician.
· Do not place fans or space heaters where small children can touch or fall upon them. Never leave operating space heaters unattended.
· Use common sense with new gifts. Never use electrical appliances in or around water.
· Never leave an unattended iron plugged in.
· Make certain the UL certification label is attached to any electrical device you purchase or use.
· Keep electrical devices clean and periodically check them.
For natural gas customers, Ameren Missouri offers these safety tips:
· Natural gas furnace owners should be aware of, and take precautions against, carbon monoxide poisoning---dubbed the “silent killer.” This advice also applies to those with fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, natural gas/propane water heaters and fossil fuel space heaters.
· Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in homes and apartments.
· To help avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, a qualified plumber or heating professional should annually inspect and clean furnace systems. Special attention needs to be paid to the flue. A rusty or loose fitting flue may cause a vent to malfunction. Improper venting of a furnace may result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Flues that also vent through walls must be clear of snow, leaves and other types of blockages to prevent carbon monoxide from backing into the home.
(Explanation: The flue is the opening that vents the products of combustion from the furnace and water heater to the outdoors. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and vented space heaters also have flues.
If the flue is blocked or damaged, the products of combustion may leak into the home, including carbon monoxide. Even in small quantities, carbon monoxide is deadly – one-fourth of 1 percent of carbon monoxide (2,500 parts per million) is lethal within 30 minutes.
Indications that carbon monoxide may be present include high humidity, steamed-up windows, the odor of exhaust or a furnace flame that is partly yellow rather than a steady blue with a sharp pointed shape.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may be similar to those of influenza, including dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, irregular heartbeat, ringing in the ears, violent coughing, seeing spots and even unconsciousness. A person experiencing symptoms should get fresh air immediately and ventilate the home/business opening windows and doors. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 and seek immediate medical attention. Call a qualified plumber or heating professional to inspect appliances.)
· If a furnace or heating system is equipped with an air filter, follow manufacturer recommendations in cleaning or replacing that filter.
· Never hang any item from a natural gas or propane pipe. The added weight could pull down the pipe.
· Never use the kitchen oven as a heating source.
· Never store combustible materials within a few feet of the furnace or water heater.
· Call a qualified plumber or heating professional to inspect the furnace if it cycles on or off with a loud noise or otherwise malfunctions. Ignition should be smooth and quiet in a properly maintained furnace.
Natural gas contains an added odorant. A slight smell may be easily and safety correct, such as an unlit pilot light or a partially open burner valve. If it’s a strong smell, or if it’s a slight smell that does not go away, consumers should open windows and doors. Do not turn lights off or on.
Visit AmerenMissouri.com for more safety tips or other information. Another resource is the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s website at: www.holidaysafety.org.
Contacts: Lisa Manzo, 1-314-554-6157, firstname.lastname@example.org; Ameren Missouri Media Hotline, 1-866-246.4234
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Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than a century, and our electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. We serve 1.2 million electric and 126,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. Our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Our service area covers 57 counties and 500 towns, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit AmerenMissouri.com.