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Stay safe with these Christmas tree tips

Friday - 12/6/2013, 11:49am  ET

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Tossing out old lights and replacing them with LED lights saves you money on the electric bill. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - This is the weekend many people head out to choose a live Christmas tree, so WTOP has tips from an expert on how to keep those trees looking good while reducing the chances of fires.

John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety for Underwriters Laboratories, tells WTOP that if you don't cut the tree down yourself, you should test it for dryness before you buy it.

"Run your hand along the branches to make sure that you don't end up with a handful of needles. If you do, the tree is way too dry and should never be brought home," says Drengenberg.

"Once you buy a tree, make sure an inch or two is cut off the base. That fresh cut will absorb water."

Drengenberg advises to water your tree every day that it's in your home.

"The important thing to remember is trees, no matter how well you keep them watered, will last a maximum of only four weeks."

Before you put any holiday lights on your tree or roof, do an inspection.

"Look for broken sockets, frayed wires, bare wires, things of that type. If you see that, the best thing you can do is throw those decorations away and get new, UL-certified decorations because they're relatively inexpensive."

Tossing out old lights and replacing them with LED lights saves you money when it comes time to pay the electric bill in January. They use about 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.

It's important not to confuse indoor lights with outdoor ones, said Drengenberg.

"If you're decorating outside, be sure to look at the UL label. If it's a red UL in a circle, that decoration is suitable for use outside, but if the label has a green UL in a circle, that's an indoor decoration. That should never be used outside because it was never given the tests for cold weather or rainy weather."

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