As the Christmas season approaches, homeowners everywhere are beginning their yearly decorating ritual. That, of course, begins with taking all their Christmas lights out of storage and creating a plan to string them up. However, most homeowners don’t know that Christmas lights come with various risks if handled and used improperly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas lights start approximately 770 fires yearly. And countless people suffer shocks and burns from damaged light strings, too. The good news is that you can make your Christmas season safe and beautiful by following these eight critical Christmas light safety tips.
1. Only Use UL-Listed Light Sets
Before you even consider using any of your existing Christmas light sets, you should ensure they all have a UL-listed sticker on them. This means that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has tested the design of the light set for safety and durability and given it their seal of approval. You can expect UL-listed light sets to perform as advertised and to have design features that protect you from harm. This includes using durable wire of the proper gauge and built-in fuses to protect the sets from overloads.
2. Always Check for Missing or Broken Bulbs
The next thing you’ll want to do when you take your light sets out of storage is to check them all for broken or missing bulbs before you use them. If one of your strings has a broken bulb, you may cut yourself on it, or it may start a fire when you turn the light set on. Missing bulbs can also lead to shocks, although they’re easier to spot because they’ll usually cause a whole section of your light string to not light up. In either case, you should purchase compatible replacement bulbs and ensure all of your light strings are fully functional before you use them.
3. Never Use Indoor Lights Outside
Another thing you should do when you take your Christmas lights out of storage is to separate them into two piles. One for outdoor-rated light sets and one for indoor-only sets. If you store your light sets in their original boxes, they should tell you which. To be safe, however, you should also look at the white UL label affixed to the light string near its plug. It should tell you whether the set is made for indoor or outdoor use.
This is important for two reasons. One is that outdoor lights tend to run hotter and aren’t always suitable for use on a Christmas tree. Your tree should use indoor light sets or those specifically marked for indoor/outdoor use. And if you use an indoor light set outside, it could suffer damage from the elements and potentially damage other sets you’ve plugged into the end of it.
4. Consider Upgrading To LED Lights
While you’re checking on the functionality of your existing light sets, it’s also a good idea to consider replacing your older sets with newer LED versions. There are multiple reasons for this. First, LED light strings don’t run hot, making them far less likely to cause fires. Second, they use far less electricity, so they won’t overload any of your home’s electrical circuits even if you use more of them. Plus, they’ll last longer, and you won’t have to worry about bulbs burning out or breaking at the rate they would with incandescent sets.
5. Use Proper Extension Cords
No matter what type of Christmas light sets you’re using, it’s also important to pair them with the right extension cords. For outdoor lights, you’ll want to stick with outdoor-rated extension cords. You’ll also want to use cords that can handle the full electrical load you plan to place upon them. So, you’ll want to calculate the total wattage of all of the light sets you’re plugging into each extension cord and double-check that against each cord’s specifications. The same goes for any indoor lights you must plug into extension cords. Be aware that indoor-rated extension cords are often designed for light-duty use, so always check the total wattage of any light sets you plan on using.
6. Don’t String Together Too Many Light Sets
While at it, you should also avoid stringing together too many light sets in a row. The rule of thumb for incandescent light strings is never to exceed three identical-length light sets in a row. You’ll find, however, that certain light sets have specifications that allow you to exceed that number. However, it’s rare to find incandescent light strings that allow more than five sets in a row. Fortunately, most light sets now have fuses that will blow to prevent you from overloading them in this way. However, consider using LED light strings if you need to string together more than three sets. They will tell you on their labels how many sets you can safely string together. In some cases, LED sets will allow you to string up to 10 sets together without exceeding their safe limits.
7. Never Close Cords in Doors or Windows
One of the problems that often arises when you can’t string enough light sets together is that you end up needing more electrical outlets to support your Christmas lights. And when those aren’t available, particularly outside the home, homeowners sometimes resort to running extension cords through windows and doors to find more power. The problem is that the cords can get damaged when you close a door or window on them. Then, the wire could short out or give you a painful shock.
8. Avoid Staples or Nails When Hanging Lights
Lastly, you should also avoid the use of staples or nails when you put your outdoor Christmas lights up. Although this may seem like a good way to keep the lights stable in the wind and inclement weather of the winter, it’s not worth the risk. Staples, nails, and other sharp objects can easily damage the wires of a Christmas light set. At best, this will render your light set inoperable. At worst, it could lead to a fire. Either way, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. That’s especially true when you consider that multiple manufacturers now make purpose-designed plastic clips that allow you to safely secure our outdoor lights.
Your Expert Restoration Specialists
Here at Pur360, we specialize in mold remediation, testing, and restoration. Plus, we offer carpet removal and disposal, drywall removal and repair, painting, attic stain removal, and dehumidifier and fan rental, too. We recognize that Christmas light safety is an essential part of home safety. Just as we tell our customers to find and fix household problems before they lead to mold growth, we also advise homeowners to be careful with their home’s electrical systems. After all, our goal is to help our customers maintain a healthy home environment, and health always starts with safety.