West Chester Fire Department
Keep Holidays Safe With Simple Decorating Advice
Whether going all out with the holiday decorations like the Griswolds or choosing a more modest approach, the West Chester Fire Department offers holiday decorating advice that can save lives and property.
Based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated 250 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 170 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires resulted in 21 deaths and 43 injuries.
If a natural tree is used in decorating, the most important advice of all is – "keep the tree watered." Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires each year typically set off by shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches. Well-watered trees are not a problem, but a dry and neglected tree can be.
- Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long, has probably dried out, and could be a fire hazard.
- Do not place a natural tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put a live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
- When disposing of a natural tree, never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. West Chester accepts Christmas trees for recycling through the end of January. Trees free of decorations can be left in designated locations at Keehner and Beckett parks.
- Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!
- Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to a power strip before plugging the power strip into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch.
- Exterior lights should always be plugged into a ground fault interruptible (GFI) outlet. If the home's outside outlets are not GFI, contact an electrician to have them installed.
- Before climbing a ladder to install lights, inspect it to ensure it is in good working condition and respect the weight limits designated on the ladder. Ladders that must lean against a wall or other support should be angled so the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about one-quarter the working length of the ladder. Never use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it was designed.
- Never use a ladder on or near power lines.
Duke Energy offers the following information regarding the use of holiday lights.
On average, holiday lighting costs just pennies a day. However, elaborate displays that use large incandescent bulbs can add as much as $80 to a monthly power bill, depending on the number of bulbs and how long they are lit each day.
Six sets of 100 large incandescent bulbs plugged in six hours a day can add up to $80 to an energy bill. The same style bulb that uses a light-emitting diode (LED) rated at 65 watts would increase the electric bill by only about $7 a month. Using mini lights will reduce the cost increase even further -- to about $1 a month.
To help customers estimate their holiday lighting cost, Duke Energy has added a calculator to its website. Residential customers can access the calculator online by visiting www.duke-energy.com/holidaylights.
For customers who prefer to run manual calculations, the formula is:
Wattage ÷ 1000 = kilowatts
Kilowatts X total hours of use per day = kilowatt-hours (kWh)
KWh X $0.10 (average residential costs per kWh) = total cost per day per string of lights
Total light sets X daily cost per set X 31 (days in December) = Average Cost
Example: Using one set of the 100 count mini incandescent bulbs = 40.8 watts:
40.8 watts ÷ 1000 = 0.04 kilowatts
0.04 X 6 hours = 0.24 kilowatt hours
0.24 kWh X $.10 = $0.02448 cost per set per day
$0.02448 X 31 = $0.75888 per set for the month
$0.75888 X 6 = $4.55 for six sets used six hours a day everyday in Dec.
All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.
When using candles as part of your holiday decorations, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning.