Many of us LOVE the most wonderful time of the year! Families display ornaments, lights and motorized characters on their roofs and front lawns. While holiday decorating is all about adding fun, sparkle and warmth to the season, it’s important to remember that many of our favorite decorations carry the risk of fire or electrical injury if not carefully used. A house lit up with Christmas lights is a beautiful thing to see, so take a few moments to read these ten safety tips on how to prevent any risk of injury or a fire; and remember if you have any worry at all you know who to call!
1. Don’t Leave Lights Unattended
Make sure you turn off your Christmas lights any time you are not nearby to monitor them and before going to sleep. Although this may seem tiring, there are a variety of products that make it easy, such as Christmas light timers and remote controls that turn your indoor and outdoor lights off with the touch of a button. Try an automated timer for outdoor lighting that illuminates your decorations when it gets dark outside and turns them off at 10pm if you’re prone to forgetting.
2. Don’t Interchange Indoor and Outdoor Lights
If you’re planning to decorate outdoors, make sure that you use lights and decorations that are rated for outdoor use. Indoor lights shouldn’t be used as a substitute for outdoor lights. Indoor lights aren’t as sealed against moisture as their outdoor counterparts, making them unsafe for wet winter weather. Putting indoor-only products outside in the weather can result in electric shock and fire hazards. If you’re not sure which type of lights you have, check the color-coded UL mark on the product’s package. A green holographic UL mark says “indoors only, please,” while a red one indicates that the product is safe for both indoor and outdoor use. Or, play it safe and toss them and buy new ones. Make sure your outdoor lights are plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shorts and shocks.
“Putting indoor-only products outside in the weather can result in electric shock and fire hazards.”
3. Consider LED Lights
LED lights are a much safer option for indoor and outdoor lighting. Because they are made of epoxy lenses, they are more durable and produce very little heat – these are perfect for holiday decorations. They also last up to 25 times longer and use 75 percent less electricity. When putting these up, don’t use tacks, nails or screws to hang lights, which can pierce the cable which will cause electrocution. Use insulated hooks instead.
“LEDS are more durable and produce very little heat making them perfect for holiday decorations.”
4. Get Rid of Old Lights
Using old strands from years past can be very dangerous. Before you string up a single strand of lights, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections. Modern lights are much safer, as they have fused plugs to prevent sparks in the event of a short circuit. If bulbs have burned out, replace them right away, but make sure you use the correct wattage bulbs. When shopping for lights, electric decorations and extension cords, purchase only the ones that are UL-listed. When you put your lights back into storage after the holidays, make sure to put them in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water damage and rodents from chewing on the cords.
5. Use Three Light Strands Per Outlet
Be careful not to overload extension cords. The number of light strings you can connect together in sequence depends on both the strands’ wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the house circuit you plug them into. A good rule of thumb is to keep each outlet to three strands of lights or fewer. Also, consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet for added protection. Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses, or making any other repairs.
“A good rule of thumb is to keep each outlet to three strands of lights or fewer.”
6. Securely Fasten All Outdoor Light Strands
Winter storms can easily catch and blow loose outdoor Christmas light strands, causing potential electrical hazards. Fasten your lighted decorations to firm objects like trees or walls to keep your lights secure and where they belong. Also, fasten indoor lights out of reach of pets and small children to avoid chewing mishaps that could result in accidental electrocution. Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
7. Do NOT Use Electric Lights on Metallic Trees
If you opt for a metallic tree, avoiding using electric lights or decorations. The tree could easily become charged with electricity, giving a real “shock” to anyone who touches it. Always make sure that you purchase electrical decorations and lights from reputable retailers.
8. Careful with Extension Cords
Be careful not to overload extension cords. Before you start plugging in, find out the wattage rating of your extension cords, as well as the power requirements of any lights or decorations you’re planning to plug into it. Every so often, check Christmas light wires to make sure that they’re not warm to the touch. Outdoor lights can pose a safety risk when extension cords are low enough to become surrounded by pools of rain or melted snow. Keep the cords dry, and make sure to use surge protectors to minimize damage in case of voltage fluctuation.
“Keep the cords dry, and make sure to use surge protectors to minimize damage in case of voltage fluctuation.”
9. Be Mindful of where You Place Candles
Candles aren’t the safest option for families who have small kids or pets. Place lit candles above the reach of wandering hands and tails, and well out of the way of flammable materials like curtains or wrapping paper. To prevent possible burns and fires, try flameless candles instead, like battery-operated candles. If not, place lighted candles away from combustible material and never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
10. Keep Your Christmas Tree from Becoming a Fire Hazard
Your choice of Christmas trees can affect its flammability factor. Christmas trees are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. While there are definitely benefits to a real tree, artificial trees are the safer choice. Most artificial trees are made with fire-resistance materials, making them fairly safe to light and decorate. If you opt for a real tree, make sure it’s fresh when you buy it and that you keep it well watered. Older, dried-out trees ignite and burn much faster than those that are freshly cut and well hydrated. Once your tree dries out, it is no longer safe to keep in your home and should be removed immediately.
“Once your tree dries out, it is no longer safe to keep in your home and should be removed immediately.”
If you go for taking a real tree home, check for three things: the needles, the trunk, and the fall-out. Make sure that the needles are fresh, green, and firmly attached to the branches before purchasing. Bend the needles between your fingers – if they break, the tree is too dry. Check that the tree trunk’s cut surface is sticky to the touch. And finally, pick the tree up vertically and tap the trunk against the ground; if needles fall off, move on to another tree. The US Fire Administration reported that there are 250 Christmas tree fires and 14 related deaths each year. As a general rule, Christmas trees with thicker needles take longer to dry out, so a robust variety like the Noble Fir is a good choice.
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At Frontline Electrical Services we love helping our customers feel safe and secure in their homes in any season. If you are in the Benicia or Fairfield, California area, contact us today at (800) 945-0268 (here is a map to us) to have your home’s wiring checked or to receive your free home energy consult where our techs analyze your electricity usage and give you the information you need to make sure your home is the most energy-efficient it can be! Remember, if it’s electrical, we do it!