Decorating for the holiday season is always a fun time of year. Creating magic around your home with festive decorations and lights can be time consuming but worth the effort when the task is finished. Whether you use the simple decorations of a tree, wreath and some garlands, or you go all out and turn your home and yard into a winter wonderland, be sure to keep in mind some lighting safety basics.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show that Christmas lights are responsible for 40% of Christmas tree fires, and overall decorations caused over 15,000 injuries (ladder falls ranked the highest at 34% of these injuries). With these numbers it is important to follow some basic safety protocol and understand how to install and maintain your lights, so you can enjoy the holiday season disaster free. Take a look at the following tips for Christmas light safety.
- Make sure you’re using the correct lights for the correct area of your home. Don’t use lights labeled for indoor use outside the home. Indoor lights lack the insulation that outdoor lights require to protect them from moisture and weather elements.
- Inspect the condition of your old light strands to make sure they are still in good condition. If there are frayed, cracked, damaged cords or loose or missing bulbs, toss them out and replace with new strands. This chore can be a pain, but using damaged light strands can create shock and fire hazards. Also, make sure your lights are UL certified. This means they have been tested and meet industry requirements for safety.
- Consider LED lights if you are looking to replace your lighting strands. They are cooler to the touch, compared to traditional Christmas lights and could help prevent overheating which is the cause of most Christmas tree fires.
- When linking your light strands together, pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of strands to safely link. If you don’t, you run the risk of over taxing your outlets or circuits, leading to electrical malfunction. Electrical issues are the leading cause of Christmas decoration fires.
- Follow safety procedures when using ladders to decorate your home. Have someone steady the ladder when hanging lights and use awooden or fiberglass ladder to avoid electric shock.
- Don’t use nails or screws when hanging your lights, as these can damage cords. Use light clips made specifically for the purpose of decorating with lights. Also make sure to secure loose cords and strands to avoid tripping over excess length. The same notion goes for windows and doors, as well. The weight of pressure from a closed window or door on a cord can cause damage that results in electic shock and fire hazards.
- When decorating with lights outdoors, consider upgrading your outdoor outlets to GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). They prevent electric shock when wet conditions arise outside and help protect your home from electrical shorts.
- When you leave your home or go to sleep for the night, turn off the decorative lights. When lit for long periods of time, they can overheat and cause a fire. Outdoor lights are best put on a timer that can be set for lights to turn on and off with a preset amount of time for illumination.
- When it’s time to take down the decorations and lights, inspect conditions as you undecorate and take care with how they are stored for the following season. Store them neatly in sealed containers, so they will not be harmed by water or pests. Doing this will help ensure an easier process of decorating next holiday season.
Following just a few simple safety measures can ensure your holiday season can be celebrated safely with your family and friends. You may also save yourself a little time and money in the long run.