Electrical safety tips for the holidays
The holidays are a festive time of year that give people the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends who get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Decorations have become an integral part of the season and include everything from blow-up figures to elaborate light displays.
Unfortunately, the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for firefighters who regularly respond to house fires caused by faulty electrical wiring or ignoring basic safety precautions that create hazardous electrical situations.
The amazing array of available colors and shapes make decorative holiday lighting a favorite for many people. The importance of safety cannot be overstated when it comes to electric lights that burn for hours at a time for several weeks or more during the holiday season. The following is a list of precautions you can take to ensure that your holiday light display remains safe and free from electrical shocks and hazards that can create fires.
- Real Christmas trees top the list of fire hazards during the holidays. Their fragrance and natural beauty are irresistible but these trees dry out very quickly and hot lights easily create sparks on dry pine needles. If you choose a real tree for your Christmas display, it is imperative that you water the tree every day until it is removed from your home. Doing so will not only preserve the looks of your Christmas tree, but will also prevent it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard because of excessive heat or unforeseen electrical shorts.
- When purchasing lights for holiday decorating, make sure they have been laboratory tested and display the “UL” listing on the outside of the box in which they are packed. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) was founded for the sole purpose of testing a wide array of products and materials to ensure that they pose no threat to life or property, including fires and other electrical hazards. Do not use holiday lights that haven’t passed UL’s strict performance standards.
- Before using lights, check each strand for loose connections, frayed ends or damaged cords. It is recommended that you only use lights with fused plugs, which are designed to prevent sparking in the event of short-circuiting. This feature is only available on newer lights, so you should replace older light strings with newer ones that are designed to be safer.
- When replacing burned-out bulbs on holiday lights, make sure you use the correct wattage.
- You should never use screws, nails or other such hardware to hold lights in place and should use only insulated hooks that help prevent short-circuiting.
- You should always follow the recommended usage for decorative lights. If they are designed for inside use, don’t put them outside because inside lights have thinner insulation that is more easily exposed to the elements and easily damaged. If lights are designed for outside use, don’t put them inside. A lot of manufacturers are now creating lights that are usable in either situation, outside or inside.
- When placing lights outside, you should avoid running electrical cords on the ground because of snow/water and other debris that could cause short-circuiting. You should always try to elevate electrical cords, which keeps them off the ground and away from debris, but also prevents people from tripping over the unseen cords. If you must put cords on the ground, securely tape them in place in order to prevent such accidental tripping.
- You should plug all outside lights into a “ground fault circuit interrupter” outlet (GFCI) because they are designed to stop the flow of current whenever an electrical short is detected.
- Always avoid overloading electrical outlets because doing so causes overheating and tripped electrical breakers.
- Whenever you are leaving your home or retiring for the night, always turn off the lights or unplug the electrical cords since you won’t be there to monitor their functioning.
- After the holidays, you should store your Christmas lights in a container that can be tightly sealed in order to prevent damage from critters, water and other potentially damaging elements.
By following these recommendations and using common sense, you can protect your family and home from damages that frequently occur during the holiday season because of electrical hazards caused by holiday light fixtures.
Happy Holidays! from Ampacity Electric.