Winter holidays are a time for fun, food, and family. Many homeowners want to enhance the aesthetics of their property by hanging lights off gutters or connecting lighted decorations in their backyard.
Unfortunately, some get carried away with lighting decorations, ignoring safety measures leading to electrical issues such as fires. In fact, between 2015 to 2019, approximately 790 home fires were caused by holiday lights alone. Christmas trees caused another 160 fires, and candles were the cause of 7,900 more.
Thus, it’s not surprising that this colder season is also a hectic time for many electricians in Wilmington, NC. Paying attention to a few things and following safety instructions can prevent many holiday disasters. Read on to learn about ten safety tips when installing holiday lights.
1. Check the Condition of the Lights
Because holiday lights haven’t been used for a long time, you need to check them carefully for any damage. Frayed or damaged wires can cause an electrical shock and damage other lights and appliances. Broken or empty sockets can also be a potential fire hazard. Many people reuse their holiday lights for longer than recommended.
Replace old lights with LED light strings. They consume less energy and last much longer than incandescent lights. Make sure the lights have been rated by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or any other safety testing lab to ensure they are safe to use
2. Do Not Interchange Indoor and Outdoor Lights
This goes without saying, but sometimes people think it is ok. Safety-tested indoor lights ensure they are not a fire hazard to trees but are not durable enough for the outdoors. Outdoor lights are made to endure cold and wet weather conditions.
3. Hang Lights Safely
Use holders and racks designed for hanging holiday lights. Make sure nails or staples do not pierce the wires, which could cause an electrical shock.
Always unplug lights when hanging them, and avoid using a metal ladder. Make sure all lights are safely secured. If you are planning to install a big light display, it is best to enlist the service of a trained electrician.
4. Be Careful with Extension Cords
Improper use of extension cords causes around 3,300 home fires every year. Make sure you use indoor extensions indoors only. Even though outdoor cables are meant to withstand different weather conditions, you should keep them dry and away from snow and water.
Don’t run cables through doors or windows to avoid damaging them. Avoid plugging in too many lights into one extension, and don’t plug extensions into one another. Ensure extension cords are out of the way to avoid tripping and are out of reach for children and pets.
5. Don’t String Too Many Lights Together
Maybe you decided you will have the most impressive holiday decoration in your neighborhood in Wilmington, NC. To be on the safe side, do not string more than three strands of lights together.
If you are using LED lights, it is possible to use more, but you should always follow the instructions on the package or consult with your electrician if you are unsure.
6. Do Not Overload Outlets
Plugging in too many lights or an extension cord with many appliances into one outlet can cause the outlet to heat up.
If it gets too hot, it will start smoking and eventually cause an electrical fire. If you have too many appliances and insufficient outlets, ask your electrician to install additional receptacles.
7. Make Sure All Outdoor Outlets Have GFCI Protection
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) prevent electrocution by stopping the electric current if an abnormal change is detected. GFCI outlets are usually installed in the kitchen and bathrooms, where outlets are close to a water source.
Ask an electrician to check if all outdoor outlets are GFCI and if they are working correctly. All your outdoor lights should be plugged into a GFCI outlet, and the outlet should have a plastic covering to protect it from water.
8. Know Your Electrical Panel
Do you know where the main switch is located and how to switch it off in an emergency? Do you know what to do if a circuit breaker trips? Circuit breakers will trip if the electrical system is overloaded. If a breaker trips often, you need to call an electrician to ascertain the cause behind it.
A circuit breaker will lose its efficiency if it trips frequently. Also, make sure the electrical panel has an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI). According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 50 percent of home fires could be prevented if every home had properly installed AFCI breakers or outlets.
Before you start putting up your lights, you should hire an electrician to check the electrical panel. The technician will ensure that all circuit breakers are in good working condition and that the electrical system can handle the increased energy demand.
9. Take Care of Your Christmas Tree
To prevent your tree from catching fire:
- Make sure it is a healthy tree and water it regularly. If you opt for an artificial tree, make sure it is flame-resistant.
- Clip decorative lights on the tree instead of laying them on the branches.
- Keep the tree away from fire sources like the fireplace or candles.
10. Turn Lights Off When You’re Asleep or Away
Not only will this save you energy costs, but it will also keep you and your loved ones safe. If anything happens, somebody needs to be able to act quickly to prevent severe damage.
But sometimes you might forget to turn your light display off. To prevent that, you can use a timer that automatically switches the lights on or off at your preferred time. Also, ask your electrician to double-check all smoke detectors, alarms, and other electrical safety devices.
We Will Help You Stay Safe This Holiday
At Mister Sparky of Wilmington, we want to ensure that your holidays will be full of beautiful memories. Our experienced and licensed electricians are experts in handling any electrical problem you might have in Wilmington, NC.
We can help you with generator maintenance, lighting installations, code compliance, and electrical repairs. Don’t hesitate to call Mister Sparky of Wilmington today, no matter how small or big your problem is.