The holiday season is a time for celebration, seeing friends and family and enjoying the spirit of the season. Many of us mark this time of the year with all kinds of traditions including decorations. While decorations—particularly those including lights—can be beautiful, we should also be mindful of safety. Too many accidents result in tragedy every year from carelessness or faulty lighting. Here are some simple safety tips to keep in mind as you start stringing the lights and lighting up the night.
Tips for inside lighting
- Before you start stringing the strands of lights, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections. If you ask yourself the question "I wonder if these are OK?", assume the answer is "No".
- If you have a young pet, keep an eye out for chewed cords or wires. Their first Christmas might need to be one without lights!
- Replace burned out bulbs with bulbs of the same wattage. The strands are designed for the size of bulb they came with.
- When you go to bed at night or leave the house, turn off your Christmas lights.
- Never pull on a string of Christmas lights, it stresses the cords and can lead to fraying or cracking. Always store Christmas lights loosely wrapped for the same reason.
- Modern lights have fused plugs, preventing sparks in case of a short circuit. Replace old strands of lights that don't have fuses with sets of newer, safer lights.
- Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. These lights with their bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt curious children to break the candle-shaped glass, which can cut, and attempt to drink liquid, which contains a hazardous chemical.
- Never hang Christmas lights on a metal tree. The tree can become electrically charged and shock someone. The tree can also short out the Christmas lights and cause a fire.
- The combination of short circuits in electrical lights and dry trees can be deadly. Keep your tree well-watered; not only will it stay fresh and green, but it might also keep your house from burning down.
Tips for outdoor lighting
- 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 be sure to only use lights outdoors that are rated to be used outside. The packaging will note whether the lights can be used indoors, outdoors, or both.
- All outdoor lights and electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
- Use the correct extension cords. Outdoor cords can be used inside or outside, but inside extension cords are only for inside.
- When running extension cords along the ground, make sure 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.
- Do not overload extension cords - they can get hot enough to burn. Check them after you have turned the lights on, if they are feeling warm or hot, they may be overloaded.
- Stay away from all power lines and feeder lines (these go from the pole to the house).
- Secure outside Christmas lights with insulated holders (never use nails, staples, or tacks) or run strings of lights through hooks.
- Check to make sure 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.
- When you put your lights back into storage after the holidays, make sure to put them in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water damage and to keep hungry rodents from turning them into lunch.
- As a final tip: If you are buying Christmas lights for your home this year, look for energy-efficient LED lights that use 75 percent less energy and last years longer than an incandescent light string , according to ENERGY STAR.
Let's keep our Christmas and holiday safe - it will be a lot more fun!