For some, the holiday season starts the day after Halloween, while others prefer to wait until they’ve carved into the Thanksgiving bird to decorate their home in red and green. Whether you’re an early bird or a week-of decorator, the most important thing about decorating for the holidays is being sure that you do it safely.
Whether you are decorating for yourself or decorating in order to stage your home, most homeowners can agree that hanging Christmas lights will be the most time-consuming task for the holidays and one of the most dangerous. Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could be the difference between happy holidays or more than just chestnuts roasting over an open fire.
Here are some safety tips to follow when decking the house with Christmas lights:
Replace Old Or Damaged Christmas Lights
Before plugging in last year’s Christmas lights, inspect their condition to make sure they’re up to par. Check for cracked or frayed cords, wires poking through the insulation and sockets without bulbs.
It might seem tedious, but damage to the cord or light bulb could cause an electric shock when plugged in or, worse, an electric fire. Dispose of any damaged or frayed strings of lights. They are cheap to replace, much cheaper than dealing with a fire.
Switch To LED Lights
If you’re in the market to purchase new Christmas lights, consider LED lights with epoxy lenses. LED lights are cool to the touch, compared to traditional Christmas lights, and use less electricity – a nice way to lower your electric bill.
Since most holiday fires are caused by overheated lights on a Christmas tree, switching to LED lights could prevent your tree from catching fire. Plus, they will likely last for more seasons than traditional lights.
Follow The Rule Of Three
Most manufacturers agree that plugging in more than three sets of Christmas lights into a single extension cord may cause problems with overheating. However, it depends on both the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug.
If you’re unsure of how to check the wattage of your home, you can use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet. Make sure you cross-reference the wattage of your Christmas lights to the amount of your power strip before you plug it in.
Look For Christmas Lights With A UL Safety Certification
Some Christmas lights will include a UL Safety Certification, meaning that the lights have been designed and manufactured to meet industry specifications for safety from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety certification origination.
Lights that have these certifications will be safer to use in your home, compared to lights that don’t have this certification. If your current lights don’t have the UL Safety Certification, you might want to invest in ones that do, especially if your lights are older than a few years.
Use Outdoor And Indoor Lights Appropriately
Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors.
Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous. Never use “indoor only” lights outdoors.
Use Christmas Light Clips Instead Of Nails Or Screws
When hanging outdoor Christmas lights on your roof, don’t use nails or screws to secure the lights as they can puncture the wires, causing the lights to malfunction or, worse, shock the person installing them.
Instead, opt for light clips found at any hardware store to secure the lights onto the house. The clips are safer for the Christmas lights and will cause less damage to your roof, compared to nails or screws. Outdoor Command hooks can also be stuck to your home and will safely hold strands of lights in place.
Use A GFCI Outlet For Outdoor Lights
There’s a specific outlet used for outdoor Christmas lights called a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It prevents electric shock from electrical systems that could be exposed to wet conditions, like rain or snow, acting as a circuit breaker.
This is especially helpful if your outlet is outdoors. Make sure you protect yourself and your home from electric shorts by purchasing a GFCI outlet. You might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet or you can install it yourself.
Familiarize yourself with the GFCI outlets in your home. As a safety feature, if one of them gets wet, they will all go out. One of the outlets should have a reset button that can be used to reset the outlets, but you will need to unplug the wet wires before they will actually turn back on.
Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could save you money in electricity bills, prevent you or a loved one from getting an electric shock and eliminate the chance of a home fire. Follow these tips this holiday season to keep you and your home safe, and enjoy a happy holiday season!