The holidays are a time of merriment, decorating with garlands and lights and making your home, both inside and out, full of festive cheer. From wreaths to exterior lights, garland on the fireplace, and even large inflatable lawn decorations, seasonal decorations help your home feel merry and bright. But, without proper electrical safety, your beautiful decorations can turn dangerous – fast.
Burn injuries or electrical or fire damage to your home are some of the most common ways people get hurt around the holidays. You can get hurt if you don’t use tools properly to hang decorations or repair them. Failure to inspect your decorations can also cause problems.
Today, the electricians at Electrical Pros are sharing our best tips for electrical safety this holiday season – with some bonus fire-prevention suggestions! As always if you have any questions, one of our licensed electricians can help!
Keeping Your Family Safe During the Holidays
Before using any electrical decoration, read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow all the directions in the item’s booklet. Some electrical decorations require a certain plug or must be plugged into a wall outlet, not an extension cord or power strip. Don’t try to use a decoration for any purpose other than the one the manufacturer intended — if it breaks through misuse, someone could get hurt.
Here are some more of the Best Practices that Electrical Pros recommends for decorating the interior and exterior of your home:
- Double-check all light strands to ensure that there is a bulb in every socket and that the cords are intact. Frayed cords, where the wires are exposed, could be a fire hazard. Discard any strings of lights that are damaged.
- Keep any ladders and decorations away from outside power lines, including ones that go into your house.
- Do not attach any decorations to wires or other power lines outside.
- Make sure that the ladder is stable on the ground before climbing. Place the ladder on a flat surface, and do not use anything underneath the ladder’s feet to raise it higher.
- Exterior lights should be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory. You can tell if they are because approved lighting will have a “UL” on the tag. Underwriters Laboratory inspects lighting products for any potential safety hazards.
- A red UL mark means that the lights are safe for indoor or outdoor use, while a green UL mark indicates lights that should only be used indoors.
- Do not tack nails or thumbtacks directly into the electrical cord when hanging lights. Instead, use clips to hang the strands of light or drape the light string around nails in the wall.
- Only use extension cords outside if they are approved for exterior use. Use heavy-duty extension cords for all holiday lighting and decorations, and make sure to limit their use – no more than three strings of standard lights should be plugged in for each cord.
- Any outdoor inflatable decorations and exterior lights must be plugged into circuits protected by Ground Fault Circuit interrupters (GFCI). This electrical safety feature prevents electrical shocks by interrupting the circuit if differences between hot and neutral wires occur.
- Use timers to turn lights off if you aren’t home, or turn off exterior lights and decorations before you go to bed each night.
- Use no more than two bulb plug-in ornaments per strand of standard lights. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for both the ornament and lights before plugging them in.
- Do not allow interior lights to touch drapery or other fabric, including carpeting or fabric garlands. Keep any candles, whether LED or flame, away from fabric, plastic, or any other flammable surfaces.
- Secure cords on the floors so they do not become trip hazards. If possible, run the cords next to the baseboards, or consider investing in floor cord protectors.
- Place electrical safety plug covers on all unused plugs on power strips, wall outlets, and extension cords.
Fireplace Safety Tips
Fireplace Safety is another consideration during the winter holidays. If you have a wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace, it’s important to make sure that children stay away from it. Make sure to operate the fireplace only if an adult is in the room, and do not leave the fire burning overnight, even for a gas or electric fireplace.
Keep any flammable objects away from the fireplace, including decorations, garland (fake and real), and stockings. Live, real Christmas trees are very flammable – make sure to keep these away from your fireplace, too.
Also, avoid using your home fireplace to burn wrapping paper and other gift wrap trash.
Stay Safe This Holiday Season
When you take the right precautions for electrical safety this holiday season, you can keep everything merry and bright – and safe! Follow our best practices for decorating inside and out, and don’t forget to call the experts at Electrical Pros if you have questions about your electrical holiday decorations.