With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s almost time to break out those cheerful Christmas lights and get into the spirit of the holidays. While there’s nothing wrong with decorating your home or business with flashy, colorful Christmas lights, there are some important safety measures that shouldn’t be ignored when it comes time to deck the halls.
Always Check for Broken Bulbs
Once you’ve taken those bundles of tangled Christmas lights out of storage to prepare for holiday decorating, give them a thorough inspection. Check for frays along the string of lights as well as broken or missing bulbs. Just a simple check for faults in your lighting can prevent cuts, electrical shock, and electrical fires.
This step is especially important if you’re using old lights that haven’t been stored properly and may have sustained damage or wear and tear in storage. If you’re just missing a bulb or two, and the strand itself looks good, your light string typically comes with replacement bulbs that can be used for minor repairs.
Change Out Older Christmas Lights
If you’ve looked over your light strings and they’re starting to look a bit on the worn side, it’s probably time to replace them. Sure, it may be a bit inconvenient to make that run to the store for new lighting, but it’s well worth the trip to ensure the only holiday fire you have to worry about is in your fireplace.
Incandescent bulbs should generally be replaced every 4-6 years unless damage requires you to change them sooner.
Avoid Using Metal Ladders While Placing Lights
If you’re decorating the house outside or need to reach a higher up spot for light placement inside, use a wooden ladder rather than a metal one.
Why does your ladder matter? Metal ladders can conduct electricity, increasing your chance of electric shock when putting up electrical lighting. Wooden ladders, on the other hand, aren’t a shock hazard and – in some instances – are sturdier than your standard metal ladder.
Alternatively, if you can’t find a wooden ladder, look for a fiberglass one.
Use the Appropriate Lights for Inside and Outside
Never use indoors lights outside. Indoor lighting may not be able to handle the harsh conditions outside and could cause electric shock or fire. When you’re looking for outdoor lighting for your home, make sure what you buy is weatherproof, especially if you live in wetter areas with frequent rain or snow.
Additionally, while most modern outdoor lights can be used inside, indoor use should be avoided if the lights are prone to getting hot.
Always Check Lights for UL Seal Before Purchase
When shopping Christmas lights, always check for the UL seal. This seal indicates that these lights have been thoroughly tested and meet national industry standards.
Choose the Right Extension Cord
If you’re planning to decorate outside, always use extension cords designed for outdoor use. Indoor extension cords are not at all meant for outdoor use and won’t be able to withstand the elements.
Additionally, make sure the junction where your lights and extension cord connect is not sitting in the moist dirt, snow, or puddles.
Never Let Lights Sit on the Ground Outside
Much like extension cords, your Christmas lights should never be left sitting directly in moist environments. Lights strings should always be elevated or protected using a cord protector.
Don’t Overuse Light Strings
Most Christmas lights aren’t designed for long-term use, meaning past the average time you’d keep them up for the holidays.
When shopping Christmas lights, check the information on the box to see how long you can safely keep your lights in operation.
Don’t Overload Your Power Outlet
Sure, you standard Christmas lights have built-in plugs to connect several light strands, but that doesn’t mean you should be connecting 5-6 strands together using a single outlet along with chargers and other electronics.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends connecting a maximum of only 3 light strands together. Overloaded outlets are a fire hazard.
Avoid Feeding Cords Through Windows and Doors Outside
Never feed cords through windows and doors to power lights outside. These strands of light can easily become pinched and damaged, resulting in electric shock.
If you plan on using lights outside, check around your home for outdoor outlets or consider purchasing solar-powered Christmas lights that don’t require being plugged in to work.
Use a GFCI Outlet for Your Lights
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets are safer for Christmas lights because they will immediately shut down the circuit if too much current is detected, actively preventing electrical fires.
You can easily identify GFCI outlets by the small test and reset button located at the center of the outlet. If you can’t any GFCI outlets in your home, you can also find portable GFCI outlets at your local hardware store.
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