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.
Decorating caused more than 15,000 injuries resulting in an emergency room visit with falls being the highest at 34%, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas lights cause 40% of Christmas tree fires. While homeowner’s insurance can protect one financially in some cases, it doesn’t help with safety.
Here are some important 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 electrical 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.
Keep Your Real Christmas Tree Hydrated
Other than overheated Christmas lights, fires are also caused by dry Christmas trees. A dry tree will be more flammable compared to one that’s been properly watered. If you prefer a real Christmas tree, make sure you check the water every day to prevent the tree from drying out. Some trees even need their water refilled twice a day at first depending on how fresh they are.
However, if you’re not too attached to a real Christmas tree, it’s actually safer to purchase an artificial one made from fire-resistant materials. As a bonus, artificial trees usually are pre-lit and can be purchased with LED lighting, making setup and cleanup a breeze.
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 Ladders Appropriately
Since falls are the highest emergency room-related injury during the holidays, it’s important to know how to safely use a ladder when hanging Christmas lights off the roof of your home or in any other space that would require a ladder.
Have a spotter with you at all times to hold the ladder for stability and don’t put it at too steep of an angle. To prevent tipping when hanging Christmas lights, never extend your body further than parallel with the ladder. Consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder when you’re working with Christmas lights to prevent an electric shock.
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.
Secure All Loose Light Strands
If you need to use an extension cord or have a long strand of lights between your Christmas tree and outlet, make sure you secure all loose light strands with electrical tape to avoid tripping and falling.
If you have loose light strands outdoors, secure them with ground staples found at any hardware store. Simply place the staple around the light and push as far as you can into the grass or other soft surfaces to secure the cord.
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.