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Use the right ladder

The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends using a wooden or fiberglass ladder when hanging lights to avoid electrical shocks.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

​Use the right type of lights

It's probably a no-brainer to use lights that are labeled as indoors for your indoor lights and ones labeled outdoors for your outdoor lights, but there's more to it. Check to make sure your lights are labeled as waterproof if you live in a wet area and look for the UL seal. The UL seal means that the lights meet the national industry standards of the American National Standards Institute.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Use the right cord

Always use an extension cord that is rated for outdoor use. Indoor-use extension cords aren't meant to be used in the cold or wet.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep 'em dry

Don't let your cords sit on the ground, like in this photo. Make sure that the junction where your light cord and your extension cord meet stay out of puddles, damp soil, snow or ice. You can buy an inexpensive cord protector-- like the Twist and Seal Heavy Duty Cord Protector or the Extension Cord Safety Seal-- to keep your cords dry or plan your light display so that connections are in the air instead of on the ground.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Elevate the light

Keep your light strands off the ground, too. If you want to make a cool runway effect down your walkway, use light stakes like these by Dyno or these by HomeAccents. You just stick them in the ground and the lights clip to the top of the stake.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Prevent tripping hazards

Use anchoring pins or ground staples to secure extension cords to the ground on either side of a walkway to prevent tripping hazards. Simply thread the cord through the middle and push the ends of the pin or staple into the dirt. If you have some wire hangers, a pair of pliers and wire cutters laying around, you can make your own staples in a pinch. Just cut 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) of wire and bend it into a U-shape.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't make your lights a year-long attraction

Sure, they're pretty, but don't leave your lights up for too long. Many lights, like smart lights, are not meant for long-term use. Be sure to check the light's box for information on just how long you can safely leave your lights up.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't overload your outlet

If your lights look like this photo, then you're doing it wrong. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. If you're using LEDs, most UL labeled lights will tell you on the package how many strings of lights you can safely string together.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't put cords through doors and windows

Don't run your extension cords through window or door cracks. The cord could become pinched, which can ruin the insulation around the wires and lead to a nasty shock.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Use a GFCI outlet

Only plug your lights into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These outlets will shut the circuit down if there is too much current flowing through, preventing fires. If your outlet is a GFCI, it will have a reset and test button in the center. If you don't have one, you can purchase a portable GFCI outlet from your home improvement store like this Waterproof In-line GFCI or this Portable GFCI.

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Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

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