Lighting a safer tree
Wayne Fischer is dreaming of a green Christmas. Not that he doesn’t like the white stuff ” he’s a snowmobiling enthusiast.
No, Fischer is advocating the use of LED Christmas lights, which are cheaper and safer than their incandescent predecessors. The lights adorn a real tree in his home, something Fischer says is surprising given his history.
A former neighbor of Fischer’s while he resided in New Jersey lost his wife, children and home in a fire caused from a real tree. Fischer said the tree caught fire when the heat from traditional, incandescent lights ignited its branches.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get a real tree again, it seemed way too risky,” Fischer said.
And he stuck to that.
For 15 years Fischer was content with a fake tree, until he came upon a few articles extolling the virtues of LED-lighting. The lights, Fischer said, produce little to no heat and consume only a fraction of the energy. The safety aspect of the lights also appealed to Fischer since he sits on the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District’s board of directors.
“I feel very secure putting these on a real tree and don’t feel guilty if I leave them on overnight or while I’m away from my house,” Fischer said.
Through the use of a wattage calculator, he demonstrated the difference between the two types of lights. A strand of 25 incandescent bulbs drew 175 watts of electricity.
“You can also tell they get hot within about a minute of turning them on,” Fischer said.
In contrast, the LED bulbs emitted about the same amount of light and a string of 500 bulbs drew only 14 watts.
“There is no heat whatsoever coming off of these lights. You can also see more than a 90 percent reduction in power consumption,” Fischer said. Another advantage to the new lights is that they are rated to last 50,000 hours or more, as compared to only 2,000-3,000 hours for incandescent bulbs.
Fischer said he plans to make a total switch to LED lights in the next four years.
Pete Mulvihill, assistant fire marshal at the NLTFPD, said LED lights are worth the cost of updating your light collection for safety and power reduction.
“They look like a good idea because they operate much cooler and use a lot less power,” Mulvihill said. Though, he cautioned, even with LED lights a homeowner needs to be wary of frayed wiring, which can spark and cause a fire.
Mulvihill also offered a few more tips for keeping your home safe this holiday season, mostly involving the tree.
“People need to be careful to water their tree on a daily basis. Once a tree’s natural moisture is gone it won’t come back,” Mulvihill said. He explained that a good test to know if your tree is dry is to shake it and check for needles that come off.
“If any fall off, you should safely dispose of the tree immediately. It isn’t safe to keep the home anymore and could become a fire hazard,” Mulvihill said.
Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves also speed a tree’s drying time, Mulvihill said.
“You should keep your tree in a room separate from a fireplace or wood stove because the air is much more likely to dry out and that will speed the drying of a tree,” Mulvihill said.
Disposing of a tree safely is another component Mulvihill viewed as essential.
“Do not just toss it out in your backyard or use it to light a bonfire. These trees are extremely flammable and need to be disposed of properly,” Mulvihill said.