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Few things brighten up a home like decorative outdoor lighting, and bright strands of lights aren’t just for Christmas anymore. If you’re planning on decking your halls this winter, or any time of the year, here are some tips to keep you and your property safe:

  1. Check all light strands for bare wires, frayed insulation, burnt-out bulbs or broken plugs.
  2. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for the maximum number of light strings you can safely connect together, and keep in mind that some manufacturers recommend that lights be used for a limited period of time, such as 90 days. This information can be found on the label affixed to the light string.
  3. Use only UL-approved lights certified for outdoor use, and plug into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. If your outdoor electrical plugs are not GFCI rated, you can buy portable outdoor GFCI power strips at your local hardware or home supply store.
  4. Keep electrical connections above the ground, out of snow and puddles, and away from metal gutters and downspouts. If you're stringing lights through trees in your yard, make sure the upper branches are not touching any power lines.
  5. Consider switching to LED lights. They produce almost no heat, reducing the risk of fire. They're also more energy efficient and longer-lasting than traditional lights.
  6. Don't leave decorative lights on during the day, when you leave your house, or when you go to sleep at night.
  7. Plan to take down all lighting within two weeks of the holidays -- it will reduce weather deterioration on your decorations and keep them in good shape for next year. If your lights are not holiday-specific and are kept up for longer periods, check them often to make sure they’re still in safe working order.

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