It’s unfortunate, but every year, Christmas lighting is the culprit behind nearly 800 household fire incidents and nearly $13 million in property damage. So although holiday lighting might seem like a harmless, festive decor staple, it can certainly be hazardous, both for your safety and the safety of your home.
Want to minimize your risk of suffering a decor-related electrical disaster this holiday season? Implement the holiday lighting safety tips below to keep your loved ones and your home protected.
Before You Decorate, Inspect for Damage
Did you know your holiday lighting can suffer deterioration when you leave it stored for prolonged periods? If not, now you do. And that’s why it’s so important to double- and triple-check your lights for signs of damage before you hang them up. Keep an eye out for:
- Damage to the sheathing around lighting wires
- Missing bulbs and damaged sockets
- Frayed wiring or connections
If you notice any issues, even if they’re minor, toss out the affected lights and buy new ones. What if you’re only missing a few bulbs? You can easily replace them, but make sure the sockets aren’t damaged before you do.
It may also be in your best interest to have an electrician take a look at any larger lighting decor pieces you plan to set up outside, just to make sure they’re in safe working condition.
Swap Out Incandescents for LEDs
Do you currently use strings of incandescent lights on your Christmas tree or your home exterior? If you want to minimize fire risk, now is the time to upgrade your lighting decor.
Incandescent bulbs tend to heat up quickly, and when you leave your holiday lights on for hours on end, those bulbs can get remarkably hot. If you can’t upgrade all of your bulbs to LEDs, at the very least, be sure to upgrade the ones you use on your tree, especially if it’s real.
Get an Electrical Inspection
Do you own an older home? If that’s a yes, when was the last time you had an electrician take a look at your electrical system? If it’s been a while, you may need to update old and outdated wiring or service panels so that your electrical system is properly equipped to handle the extra load your lighting decor will place on it.
Lots of Christmas lighting combined with increased wintertime electricity usage can easily overload outdated breakers. If you’re still using aluminum wiring, knob and tube wiring, or a seriously outdated panel such as a Zinsco, Wadsworth Bryant & Bulldog, or Federal Pacific Electric, you may be at risk for serious electrical problems this holiday season.
Before you start hanging your decorative lighting this year, contact an electrician for a comprehensive electrical inspection.
Only Use the Properly Rated Lighting
You want to be sure only to use lights that the Underwriters Laboratories or Intertek has approved for outdoor use. These ratings will be marked on the lights and the packaging and classified according to their intended purpose.
The main reason you need to follow this is but the bulbs may not be as durable and can be more likely to break or not be able to hold up in wet weather resulting in possible electrical issues.
Don't Over Connect Light Sets
There may be some circumstances where it's tempting to plug multiple lights in together, but this also should be avoided. Most standard circuits are rated at 15 amps; however, there are some 20 amps depending on the homeowner's needs. The main consideration is to not load the circuit over 80% because this can result in the breaker being tripped or, worst case scenario, an electrical fire.
Don't Fasten the Lights to Metal Items
Another essential safety tip is not to use electric lights on a metal tree. This combination can result in fire risk and electrical shock, so you want to avoid using any electrical items and stick to the traditional tinsel, garland, and ornaments.
Use Plastic Hooks
Switching out for plastic hooks as opposed to metal is another prevention tip. This is because the material does not conduct electricity or heat, making it the safest option. Plastic hooks are also incredibly durable and come in heavy-duty and lightweight choices.
Use the Right Extension Cords
If you are planning on running Christmas lights outside, you need to understand that not all extension cords will be appropriate. Indoor options have thin insulation around the wires, making them inappropriate for exterior use.
You also want to check the watts and amps to ensure they will meet the needs of the lights and be a heavy-duty enough option for the electrical requirements.
Turn Off Decorative Lights at Bedtime
Although it’s popular to leave decorative outdoor lights on throughout the night, it’s not necessarily the safest thing you can do. The same idea applies to your indoor lighting decor.
Even if you’ve triple-checked all of your lights for damage (or purchased brand-new lights), you can’t stop a budding problem if you can’t see it. And if you’re snoozing away in bed, you certainly won’t notice if your decor starts malfunctioning in the middle of the night.
To protect your loved ones and your home, be sure to turn off ALL of your holiday lighting when it’s time to hit the sack. If you know you’ll have trouble remembering to switch off those lights, pick up plug-in lighting timers at your local home improvement store. Plug your lights into them, set a shut-off time, and let the timers do the job for you.
Stay Safe This Holiday Season With Harrison Electric
Think your home’s electrical system might need an inspection before you start hanging your lights? Let our team at Harrison Electric help you out! Give us a call today at 763-544-3300 or contact us online with any questions, and we’ll get in touch.