Tips for a safe and energy-efficient Halloween

Halloween is almost here, and it's time to start planning a great yard display. Vampires, ghosts and graveyards can liven up your property, get you in the holiday spirit and put a good scare into neighbors and trick-or-treaters alike. And of course, you'll want to light up your ghouls at night so everyone can see them and be appropriately frightened.

However, when planning your display remember that the danger should be make-believe only, and take care to dodge Halloween hazards -- bloated electricity bills, as well as safety hazards to life and property. Follow these tips to avoid spending a bundle on electricity, endangering visitors or burning down your house.

You don't have to bankrupt yourself on energy bills to have the spookiest yard on the block:

  • Anything that plugs in is going to drain electricity. Try to find decorations with LED lights, which use a fraction of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last much longer.
  • Unplug the display during the day and when you go to bed. You can also put it on a timer so it turns off automatically in case you forget.
  • Better yet, go solar -- several companies sell small solar panels that can be placed in your yard and will soak up enough energy in the daytime to light up the spooky gremlins and goblins at night.

When it comes to outdoor decorating, the worst-case scenario is a fire:

  • Don't overload your outlets with too many plugs.
  • Inspect cords for signs of wear, fraying or damaged insulation and replace them.
  • Keep leaves and other debris away from electric gear.
  • Make sure any decorations you use outside are rated for outdoor use and aren't in danger of being short-circuited by rain. Be especially careful to use extension cords that are classified for the outdoors so they will stand up to the elements. Don't allow any electrical decorations or cords to sit in puddles after a storm.
  • If you must use candles, never put them near anything flammable or leave them unattended. Don’t risk your homemade mummy going up in flames because his wrappings got too close to the jack-o-lantern. Battery lanterns and chemical light sticks are safer. 

And take note of these general safety tips to keep everyone happy and healthy:

  • Cover any unused outdoor outlets so children can't stick their fingers in them and get a shock.
  • Be careful where you run cords so trick-or-treaters  don't become entangled and trip over them.
  • Don't  place cords or other obstructions on the sidewalk or path to the front door. Make sure that the walkway is well-lit so visitors can easily see where they're going.

With just minor effort you can make your decorations safe and efficient, then relax and enjoy the holiday. Happy Halloween!

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