Christmas Lights Safety Tips

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Dec 05, 2011 | Adam Verwymeren

 

No comment. Photo: dr_XeNo/Flickr Creative CommonsA house lit up with Christmas lights is a beautiful sight to behold. But stringing lights across your roof and around your home can be a real safety hazard if you’re not careful. So before you flip the switch to dazzle friends and family with your spectacular light show, take a few moments to run through this quick safety checklist.

●  Before you string up a single strand of lights, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections.

●  The combination of electric lights and a tinder-dry tree can be deadly. There are 250 Christmas tree fires and 14 related deaths each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. So keep your tree well-watered. Not only will it stay fresh and green, but it might also keep your house from burning down.

●  Modern lights have fused plugs, preventing sparks in case of a short circuit. Ditch old strands of lights that don’t have fuses and get a set of newer, safer lights.   

●  If bulbs have burned out, replace them right away, but double-check that you're purchasing the correct wattage bulbs. 

●  Because water and debris can get into outdoor sockets, ensure outdoor lights are plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shorts and shocks. Hire a licensed electrician if you need to install GFCI outlets.

●  Keep an eye on extension cords, as they can occasionally overheat. Just touch-test the cord. If it’s hot, unplug it.

●  Don’t hang lights using tacks, nails or screws, which can pierce the cable and become electrified. Use insulated hooks instead. 

●  When running extension cords along the ground, take care to elevate plugs and connectors with a brick, to keep snow, water and debris out of the connections.

●  Tape down any ground-level extensions cords to prevent people from tripping over them. 

●  Check that lights have been rated by a testing laboratory. You can see a list of federally recognized labs on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s website.

●  Not all lights are rated for outdoor use. Indoor lights often have thinner insulation, which can become cracked and damaged when exposed to the elements outdoors. So make sure the ones you string up on the house belong out there. 

●  Don’t leave Christmas lights on when you go to bed at night or when you leave the house.

●  When you put your lights back into storage after the holidays, place them in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water damage and to block hungry rodents looking to turn the cords into lunch.

My final advice? Be careful with ladders.

Updated January 22, 2018.

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