10 Tips for Safer Holiday Light Displays

Every holiday season, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 200 home fires that started with lighted trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Electrical problems caused one-third of these incidents. Fortunately, these fires are not common, but when they occur they are almost always serious.

To make sure your holiday season remains cheerful, keep the following safety tips in mind while decorating your home:

  1. Use lights that have been tested for safety. Look for “UL” on the tag, which means the lights have been approved by Underwriters Laboratories, a global leader in testing, inspection and certification.
  2. Inspect lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections. If you encounter any of these problems, throw it away.
  3. Limit the number of light strands to three per outlet. For added safety, use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of a wall outlet.
  4. Replace incandescent lights with LED lights. They generate less heat, which makes them a safer choice both indoors and out. Although LED lights are more expensive, they last much longer and use 75 percent less electricity—two additional reasons to make the switch.
  5. Part with your old lights. Hand-me-down lights may be sentimental and less costly, but newer lights are much safer. That’s because they’re equipped with fused plugs that prevent sparks if a short circuit occurs.
  6. Remember that indoor and outdoor lights are not created equal. Indoor lights, which have thinner insulation, are not made to withstand wet winter weather. Read the label carefully to ensure you’re making the right purchase.
  7. Be extension-cord savvy. For exterior decorations, be sure to use extension cords that are UL-rated for outdoor use. Indoors, avoid running extension cords in high-traffic areas where people could trip over them. Do not hide extension cords under rugs or beneath furniture, where they could become frayed or overheat.
  8. Adhere to a lights-out policy when you leave the house or go to sleep. If the lights short and start a fire, you want to be available to take action. Avoid the extra hassle by purchasing an automated light timer or remote control.
  9. Keep in mind that electric lights and metallic trees don’t mix. The tree could become charged with electricity, causing a potential electrocution hazard for anyone who touches it. If you prefer an aluminum tree, opt for a colored spotlight that’s not fastened to the tree.
  10. Make sure outdoor lights are plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These are designed to protect against electrocution by automatically turning off when a change in electrical flow occurs.

As you brighten up the holidays with indoor and outdoor light displays that everyone will love, keep everyone safe with these tips.

Poinsettia Pointers

The red flowering poinsettia is by far the most popular flowering potted plant for the Christmas season. White, pink, and variegated white and pink are also available. If properly cared for, you can avoid the drudgery of cleaning up their dropped leaves.

To prolong the beauty and health of poinsettias, proper care is essential. Although poinsettias do not become acclimated to interior settings as well as most foliage plants, it is easy to be successful. First, select a location that receives some sunlight — interior hallways are a poor location. It is also very important to avoid exposing the plant to sudden temperature changes — this would be a problem if the poinsettia was placed near a ventilation system or in a drafty spot near a doorway. Temperatures found in most homes are acceptable. Ideally, provide 70 to 75 degree F. days and 62 to 65 degree F. nights.

Watering is the key to success. NEVER allow the soil-less medium in which the plant is being grown to dry out thoroughly causing the plant to wilt. To avoid this, water DAILY by adding ice cubes to poinsettias. Ice cubes should be evenly distributed DAILY around the surface of the pot in which the plant is growing. The ice cubes melt slowly providing uniform wetting of the planting medium. Since ice cubes are added DAILY, the medium never dries and the plant never experiences a fatal wilt and loss of leaves. Watering with ice cubes also avoids water or mist on the colored bracts and or foliage. Also, adding the small amount of water contained in the ice cube avoids soaking the root system. Letting the poinsettia stand in water for more than 30 minutes to an hour can cause root damage resulting in defoliation and/or plant death.

  • Put 4 ice cubes (64 ml of water) per day per quart-size or 6 1/2-inch pot which is the most common size sold;
  • Put 8 ice cubes (128 ml of water) per day per 8-inch pot;
  • Put 12 ice cubes (192 ml of water) per day per larger, 10-inch pot.

Remember that this watering technique provides supplemental watering only. If the plant wilts or the potting mix in which it is growing feels dry, rehydrate the mix by soaking (floating) the pot in water (kitchen sink, clean toilet, bucket) until the roots are completely saturated – then begin the daily ice cube watering schedule again. Poinsettias are closely related to many desert plants. Their first response to dry conditions is to drop their leaves in order to cut down water loss. Plants should be checked weekly for moisture content of the potting medium, i.e., if moist, then continue the ice cube regiment; if not, water (soak) the roots.

2017 Goals

Many people start the new year with a few resolutions. Over the holidays is a great time to set goals, but acting on them is what really counts. This year, I’d like to challenge you to consider some steps towards the goal of improving the livability of your home.

Imagine how much better our day to day lives would be if we could address even one of the of following areas:

The Kitchen Is King

A “modern/updated kitchen” tops the wishlist of most homeowners. You don’t need to rip your kitchen down to the studs; a smaller investment can have serious impact. For as little as $5,000, you should be able to add a new suite of appliances, as well as a new countertop and flooring, resulting in a fresh, coordinated look. Applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls or cabinets, and updating the hardware, can also breath new life into the space.

What is the trend for 2017?
Stainless Steel – Though it has been around for decades, this appliance finish conveys clean, contemporary design, so it will signal “updated” to guests of your home. For the latest spin on stainless, look for new versions of black stainless steel from KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung, each with a softer, less reflective finish but the same cachet as the original.

Quartz Countertops – Engineered from stone chips, resins, and pigments, quartz has started to challenge granite and marble as the go-to material in higher-end kitchens. It shrugs off heat, scratches, cuts, and stains, and it requires none of the upkeep of comparably priced natural stones. Expect to spend $40 to $100 per square foot, installed.

Buff up the Bath

Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are often the most important rooms to update. They, too, can be improved without a lot of cash. Even simple things like a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink are pretty easy for homeowners to install, and they make a big difference in the look of the bath.

We also suggest replacing an old, discolored bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. You may not even need to take up the old floor. You can install the new floor right over the old one.

If your tub and shower are looking dingy, consider re-grouting the tile and replacing any chipped tiles. A more complete cover-up some folks opt for is a prefabricated tub and shower surround. These one-piece units may require professional installation but can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and refinish a worn tub.

Knock Knock

First impressions are important, especially when it comes to your house. Interestingly enough, your front door is likely to influence how visitors view the rest of your house far more than the siding, roofing, windows, or any other single element can. A handsome, well-designed entrance also does more to welcome friends and family than a manicured lawn. The irony is that most front entryways are boring portals that merely let people in and out.

Add a pop of color – ditch the dull paint and choose a bright, fun color that will make your front entry door warm and inviting. Do you have a flimsy little door knob? If so, spring for some nice hardware on the front door such as a substantial-looking handle-and-lock set. A brass door knocker and kick plate also signals to visitors that this is a solid home.

Carpet Diem

Look underfoot. Carpeting is another detail that can quickly update a home and make it look cleaner. A professional carpet cleaning is an inexpensive investment, especially if your rugs are in good shape and are neutral colors. If your carpet is showing serious wear, cover it with inexpensive, strategically placed area rugs.

Put on a Coat

Paint keeps your home looking its best while also defending its surfaces from wear, tear, and the elements. However, you don’t need to blow thousands having every square inch repainted. Instead, focus on high-traffic areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms. Give the trim a fresh coat of paint in your family room. If the back door is covered in scratch marks from the dog, fix that. Attack the areas that will give you the most bang for your buck.

So happy holidays. Take the rest of the year off and enjoy spending time with friends and family; but roll up your sleeves and get to work on one of these projects early next year!

How Much Wattage Required?

Need to determine how much total wattage your light fixtures need to output to adequately illuminate your room? Here is an easy way to calculate how much light you need for a given space.

First, calculate the square footage of the room by multiplying its width x length. For example, if your room is 14′ x 16′

14′ x 16′ = 224 square feet

To determine the necessary wattage to light the room for general use, multiply the square footage by a factor of 1.5

224 x 1.5 = 336 watts

To ensure the room is properly lit, make sure the combined wattage output by all your lamps, chandeliers, sconces, and any other lighting equals at least 336 watts.

Beckmore Lantern

Currey & Company 9748 – A delightful 4 light lantern comes with seeded glass panels that give it a special appeal. The wrought iron framework is finished in old iron. The hand finishing process used on this fixture lends an air of depth and richness not achieved by less time-consuming methods.

For example, the 4 light Beckmore Lantern using 60 watt bulbs would provide 240 watts of lighting for the room. Add a couple Beckmore Wall Sconces and they would contribute an additional 60W ea. of lighting. This would bring the total to 360 watts for the room, thereby eclipsing the minimum 336 watts required.

For task lighting for a kitchen or home office, multiply the square footage by 2.5 to determine your wattage needs.

Let’s Talk Sconces

sconcetalk

Sconces are the decorating equivalent of a great pair of earrings. You don’t really need them, but what a difference they can make in pulling a look together.
– MARTHA STEWART

Take for instance, the new Tilda Wall Sconce from Arteriors home.

Arteriors 49559 - Tilda Wall Sconce

Arteriors 49559 – Tilda Wall Sconce

This 3-light wall sconce features four tiers of natural wooden rods that slip over the flexible curved iron arms, all in a whitewash finish. Whimsical and eclectic for your lodge or rustic space. Matching Tilda 5-Light Chandelier is also available from Arteriors Home.

49559

Wall sconces might be one of the smallest light fixtures you add to your home, but it can pay off some of the largest dividends.

In general, sconces work best as accents or to light specific tasks or objects. Perhaps not coincidentally, we find that the spots in the house where they are most handy – next to a bed as reading lights, for example – are also where they tend to look best. In these contexts, sconces are both accessories and problem solvers, freeing up space on a bedroom nightstand or shedding light on artwork over a mantel.

Similarly, in a small, windowless bathroom, a pair of sconces with mirrored backs can provide extra light where it’s useful, while giving the room a brighter, more open feel.

Arteriors DS49001 - Hera Mirror Sconce

Arteriors Home DS49001 – This vintage silver sconce starts with the beauty of a sophisticated antiqued wall mirror and combines it with the perfect lighting element giving the piece an old-world elegance. This sconce would work in a dining room, bathroom, powder room, entry, or living room.

No matter what room you’d like the sconces to go, they should be hung roughly 60 inches from the floor.