Thanksgiving festivities have come and gone and with that comes time to prepare for Christmas. This means breaking out all of your holiday decorations and making your home inviting and cheerful with Christmas lights. Lights are a holiday tradition that many families love to participate in. In the hustle and bustle of holiday prep, it can be easy to get so distracted with family activities and making everything perfect that we forget how hazardous Christmas lights can be if we don’t exercise proper precautions.
Follow these seven Christmas light safety tips to ensure that your Christmas is merry, bright and, most importantly of all, safe for the family and friends you love:
Check Your Lights For Damage
While it’s nice to store and reuse Christmas lights from previous years, old light strands from the past can be quite dangerous. If they're really old, they may not have the fused plugs that modern lights have to prevent sparks in the event of a short circuit. If they are more modern lights from a previous year, it is still important to check for broken lights, frayed wires, or other damaged areas. If you find broken bulbs or frayed wires, it is best to discard and replace them with new lights as the fraying can pose a potential fire hazard.
Never Leave Lights Unattended
Even if you are just running out for a quick trip to the store or going to sleep for the night, it is important to always turn your lights off if you aren’t able to monitor them. While this can be an additional pain, especially if your whole house is covered, there are a variety of products from light timers to remote controls that make managing lights much easier.
Three Light Strands Per Outlet
It’s easy to connect an endless number of light strands in an attempt to use fewer outlets or extension cords, but this can pose a serious potential danger of overloading the maximum watt capacity of the house circuit you plug them into. You can use some math to determine the maximum watts of bulbs your outlet can handle, but a good rule of thumb is to never connect more than three standard light strands. A power strip with a built-in circuit breaker or a GFCI outlet can also add additional protection over using the standard wall outlet.
Choose Lights Certified For Outdoor Use
While indoor lights are sometimes cheaper, they are not interchangeable with outdoor lights. Indoor lights have not been sealed to protect against the moisture outdoor lights experience during wet winter weather. The best way to double check for outdoor use is to look at the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tag. Indoor lights will have a green or silver tag with green writing and outdoor certified lights will have a red or silver tag with red writing.
Securely Fasten All Outdoor Light Strands
Winter storms can come on quickly and catch and blow loose lights causing potential electrical hazards from short circuits to electrocuting children or pets. While some people may recommend attaching lights with a staple gun its best to use a product specially made to hold cords in place like plastic fasteners that won’t potentially pierce the cord.
Practice Ladder Safety
When hanging Christmas lights on the outside of the house there is a good chance you will be using a ladder. Ladder safety becomes an important issue, as ladder falls are the most common holiday injury during Christmas. Always check your ladder before using it, making sure it’s still in proper working order and checking the weight limit to avoid exceeding it. Also, a good tip for setting it up properly is to use the four to one rule - for every four feet of ladder and the base should be one foot away from the wall. For example, the base of a sixteen-foot ladder would be four feet away from the wall and so on. You may also want to use a ladder hook to avoid the ladder slipping from leaning, one of the most common causes of ladder falls.
Opt For LED Over Incandescent Lights
While LED lights can be a little more expensive, they have a lot of benefits over the standard incandescent Christmas lights. LED lights use light-emitting diodes rather than filaments to produce light making them last 25 times longer and use 75% less electricity. They also produce very little heat making them much safer to the touch and less of a potential fire hazard.
Whether you deck all of the halls with Christmas decorations or just cover your tree this season, protecting your home and loved ones should always be your number one priority. Follow these Christmas light safety tips to have a happy and safe holiday!