Decorating for Christmas: Light Safety

December 20, 2022

Nothing says “the Holidays are here” quite like sparkling string lights! From lighting up your front porch and landscaping to making the Christmas tree sparkle – string lights really do help make the holiday season merry and bright. The only issue with everyone’s favorite holiday décor is that string lights can actually pose a pretty serious safety hazard to both the inside and outside of your home.

Common problems that come from decorating with string lights are falls, electrocution, and even fires – small and large. According to the National Fire Protection Association, string lights cause an average of 770 fires each year.

But have no fear! With proper preparation and safety practices, you can easily avoid those dangerous situations and still get to enjoy the festive feeling that comes with string lights.

Tis to season to decorate responsibility – and here are some tips to help you do so:

Select the Proper Type of Light:

Even though indoor and outdoor lights look and work the same, you shouldn’t use them interchangeably. Only use indoor lights – inside, and only use outdoor lights – outside. Seems simple enough! But why is this exactly?

Outdoor lights have been specifically tested to withstand cold and rainy weather, while indoor lights have been specifically tested to ensure that they are not a fire hazard when decorating trees. If you string outside lights on the family tree, they could catch fire because they are typically hotter, while indoor lights probably wouldn’t last through the snowstorm.

Choose the Right Cord:

When stringing up lights on the porch or house, just like with the string lights, you should only ever use an extension cord that is designed for use outdoors. Indoor-use electrical strings aren’t made to endure cold or wet conditions.

Check for Missing or Broken Bulbs:

Before stringing up your porch or tree, replace any broken or missing bulbs because they could cause fires, electrocution, or injuries.

The majority of lights come with new bulbs, but you can also purchase a pack for around $3 at your neighborhood home improvement store.

A 3-Strand Limit:

No more than three incandescent light strings should be connected together, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International. If you’re using LEDs, most lights with the UL label will tell you how many strings of lights you can safely string together on the package.

Keep the Cord Dry:

You should not place your extension cords directly on the ground. Because a wet extension cable could result in electrocution, fire, or carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to keep the junction where your light cord and extension cord meet out of puddles, damp soil, snow, or ice

To keep your cords dry and safe, you can purchase a low-cost cord protector like the Twist and Seal Heavy Duty Cord Protector. You could also design your light show so that connections don’t touch the ground but are suspended above it.

Prevent Tripping Hazards:

Additionally, keep your light strands off the ground. The ground’s lights and cords are a tripping hazard and easily break if stepped on.

Light stakes can be used to create a cool runway effect along your walkway. The lights simply attach to the stake’s top when you stick them in the ground.

To prevent tripping hazards, you can also secure extension cords to the ground on either side of a walkway with anchoring pins or ground staples. Simply insert the ends of the staple or pin into the dirt and thread the cord through its middle. In a pinch, you can make your own staples using wire hangers, a pair of pliers, and wire cutters. Simply bend eight inches (20 centimeters) of wire into a U shape.

The Ladder Matters:

If you decide to follow in Clark Griswold’s footsteps and decorate the roof and exterior of your home, you will need a ladder to get to those high places.

It matters what kind of ladder you use. Electrical shocks can occur when ladders made of metal conduct electricity. The Electrical Wellbeing Establishment Worldwide suggests utilizing a wooden or fiberglass stepping stool while hanging lights to keep away from electrical shocks.

Never use Staples, Tacks or Nails to Hang Lights:

The strands are easily pierced by sharp objects, which could result in an electrical shock. Use plastic holders or wrap the lights around a fence, porch, or tree instead.

Turn Off your Lights Overnight:

Though beautiful and festive, you should turn off your lights for a few hours each day.

End of Season, End of Lights:

Without a doubt, Christmas lights are pretty. But you should not leave your lights up for a really long time. Even smart lights aren’t meant to be used for a long time. Make sure to look at the light’s box to find out how long you can leave it on safely.