Christmas Light Safety
9 Tips for Your Indoor & Outdoor Christmas Lights
As the winter holidays approach, it’s time once again to talk about Christmas light safety. Many homeowners look forward to the colder season to show off their festive side. As their holiday spirit takes over, sometimes they become too lax with safety. Every year, Christmas trees and other decorations remain a top cause of house fires.
Below are 9 helpful tips to keep you and your family safe this holiday season. When in doubt, give Patton Electric a call for assistance with installing your decorative outdoor lights.
1. Don’t Leave Lights on All Night
More than one homeowner is guilty of waking up to their still-twinkling light display. While it’s a charming way to start the day, it also means unattended electrical components through the night. Even if you need to run out for another carton of eggnog, unplug your festive lighting displays. Anytime that you can’t supervise your Christmas lights, you should always deactivate them.
If it’s too challenging to keep up with, try using outlet timers or smartphone apps. These not only keep your home safer but saves some money on your utility bills as well. It may also be wise to appoint someone else in your family as a backup lighting manager. Having two people looking out for all-night lights helps regulate them better.
2. Change to LED Bulbs
Once your light strands become a few years old, they don’t burn as brightly. Plus, you could waste hours chasing down which one decided to stop working. Upgrading your displays to newer LEDs is a wise choice for several reasons.
The first reason is that they outlast and outperform incandescent bulbs, and they are more energy efficient. Secondly, older bulbs use a lot of power, and they radiate heat. Combine that with the drier weather during winter and you can quickly have a house fire.
Lastly, LEDs remain cooler while illuminated and last several times longer than incandescent strands. Best of all, their price tag is also comparable to traditional lighting products.
3. Flameless Candles for Indoor Lighting
Traditionally, candles were used as Christmas tree lights in the 16th Century. Today, we know why that’s not a safe idea, but we still can become complacent. Holiday meals mean that there is usually a lot of cooking, and homeowners often use scented candles to combat odors. After a while, it’s easy to forget they are still burning.
Whether your candles are decorative or functional, it’s better to go flameless. While they may not smell as nice, they won’t lead to an accidental house fire. Since many flameless candles use LED bulbs, they still appear realistic. Your guests might not even notice that they aren’t the real thing.
4. Don’t Use Interior and Exterior Bulbs Interchangeably
You swore you had another strand, but you may have tossed it out last year. Instead, you take an indoor section and attach it to the rest of the strands outside to complete your project. This is a very bad idea.
There are reasons why indoor and outdoor lights are rated differently. Christmas lights meant to belong inside are more vulnerable to heat and humidity. That means that not only are they more dangerous when used outside, but they also won’t last as long. You may see your decorations wear out quickly after a few hours.
Exterior lights, on the other hand, may burn too hot for safe use indoors. Reread their safety information before installing to prevent possible fire hazards.
5. Don’t Overload Your Electrical Outlets
The first thing any festive homeowner does is reach for their extension cords. Eventually, they have one surge protector full and they’re feeding it into another one. That also means that an exterior outlet meant for two plugs is working overtime. When illuminated for hours every evening, it can cause big problems.
Any outlet, indoor or outdoor, is dangerous when it's overloaded. Consolidate your outdoor displays or invest in an alternative power source for safer use. You should also note where your GFCI outlets are located for quick resetting. Once it rains or snows, your lights will likely trip the breaker.
6. Old Lights are Dangerous Ones
Every year, you brag to your family how you still have your childhood decorations. However, if they use electricity, they likely aren’t safe to display. Over time, the protective wire coating wears away and is sometimes chewed on by pests. After a few years of use, they become too frayed to operate safely.
Holiday lights manufactured after 1998 introduced new safety standards, including thicker wiring and coatings. Modern plastic bulbs will also stay cooler over older ones, and LEDs use less energy.
7. Separate Tinsel from Lights
While this may sound nitpicky, we have a valid concern as to why. Some metal tinsels can carry a charge if lights next to it have exposed wires. For that same reason, we also recommend avoiding any electrical decorations on metal trees. Although they may look sleek, metal is such a good conductor that it’s not worth the risk for your festivities.
Tinsel could also act as a heating element, absorbing it from the light bulbs. You could see sections become much hotter than they should if not installed carefully.
8. Insulate Outdoor Extension Cords
Some homeowners believe that an extension cord is one free from safety hazards. Unfortunately, some discover the hard way why you need to insulate them first. Although extension cords are made for exterior use, they can’t be exposed to a lot of moisture. At best, this causes a short, and at worst, can start an electrical fire.
Before turning your lights on, wrap any connections several times with electrical tape. When it’s time to stow them away again, rub them with alcohol to eliminate the stickiness from the tape.
9. Buy an Artificial Christmas Tree
We know, we know, a fake tree doesn’t feel the same as a live one does. However, they also don’t pose near the safety risk that real trees do. However, live Christmas trees require you to water them frequently, all while electrical cords are wrapped around it. Plus, the longer that it stays inside with the heater on, the drier it becomes, creating a potential fire hazard.
Another great thing about artificial trees is that they won’t contain pests, and they won’t drop needles all over your floor. Once you purchase an artificial Christmas tree, you won’t want to switch back. This saves you from having to buy a tree year after year, so you end up saving a lot of money over time. Plus, you aren’t contributing to the abundance of trees being cut down.
Call On Us if You Need Help
Remember, if you run into trouble or don’t feel confident about the safety of your outdoor Christmas light installations, Patton Electric is available to help. Give us a call and we’d be more than happy to assist. We want to help you keep your home safer during the holiday season.