The winter holiday season is here and that means it’s time to showcase your home with those gorgeous lights and decorations.
Findings from a 2016 Electrical Safety Foundation International survey indicate that two-thirds of Americans use electric lights in their indoor decorating schemes, while more than half incorporate light displays outside of their homes. More than 60% of those who decorate their homes for the holiday utilize at least one extension cord. While all of this festive holiday lighting does contribute to the magic of the season, it can also be a fire hazard if not used safely.
Read on for 12 important safety tips to keep your holiday lighting displays merry and bright.
- Inspect all light strings before use. Discard any strings or other electric decorations that are damaged. Frayed electrical cords, loose connections and broken sockets are among the biggest fire hazards.
- Use caution when replacing bulbs. Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses, or making any other repairs. If you need to replace a bulb in a string of Christmas lights, make sure that the wattage rating of the replacement bulb you’re using matches that of the light strand. Using a bulb with too high a wattage can cause the light string to overheat and create a fire risk.
- Look for energy-efficient lighting. Electrical holiday decorations aren’t built to last forever, and if yours are old and worn, you may be missing out on a significant energy savings opportunity. LED Christmas lights use a fraction of the energy of older incandescent lights and they’re ideal when you’re trying to improve your holiday safety. LEDs produce virtually no heat, which makes them much safer, especially on natural trees. Vintage holiday lights should be used with extreme care, as they may pose a higher electrical fire risk.
- Make sure your outdoor lighting is UL-rated for exterior use. Exterior Christmas lights, unlike those used inside the house, need to be weather-resistant. This is also true for any extension cords used outdoors.
- Never attach light strings with staples or nails. They can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Only use UL-approved hangers.
- Don't run extension cords through window or door cracks. The cord could become pinched, which can ruin the insulation around the wires and cause a nasty shock.
- Don’t overload your extension cords. Before you start plugging in, find out the wattage rating of your extension cord, as well as the power requirements of any lights or decorations you’re planning to plug into it. A wattage rating is the amount of electricity that an extension cord is built to carry, and if the combined power requirements of your lights and decorations exceed that rating, overheating and fire can occur.
- Follow the proper safety steps when decorating outdoors. There are injury risks involved in hanging holiday lights outdoors, so you should only do it during fair weather. Dress appropriately in non-slip shoes. If a ladder is needed, be sure it’s dry and that you have a spotter with you. Make sure your ladder is on secure and level ground before climbing and never stand on the top two rungs. Use extra caution when working around overhead power lines.
- Keep your walkways clear. Extension cords and light strings create tripping hazards when they cross walking paths. Plan your light display to avoid running cords across doorways, sidewalks and other high-traffic areas.
- Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters, and keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Live trees are highly flammable due to their needles and sap.
- Make sure your Christmas tree is well-watered. The combination of electric lights and a dried-out tree can be deadly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 300 Christmas tree fires and 15 related deaths occur each year. Watering your tree regularly will not keep it fresh and beautiful, it might also keep your house from burning down.
- Never leave lights unattended. Always turn off your Christmas lights and any other electric decorations when you go to bed or when you leave the house.
Don’t let a preventable accident take the enjoyment out of your holidays. If you have questions or need more information about holiday lighting safety, please contact our experienced professionals. From everyone at M. R. Electricans, have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!
About M.R. Electricians: Since 1996, M.R. Electricians has been serving the electrical needs of homeowners and businesses throughout Montgomery County, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and surrounding areas. The company also specializes in commercial fire protection, contract needs from small tenant fit outs to whole building installations, and motor controls for industrial spaces. From major renovations to the smallest of electrical jobs, the family-owned company is committed to providing high quality products, superior results, and unmatched customer service. Regarded as a leader in the electrical industry, M.R. Electricians has set the standard for excellence in the region. For more information, please visit the website at https://www.mrelectricians.us or call 301.871.0477.