Halloween is behind us and the holidays are in front of us, which means it’s time to get up in the attic, pull out those holiday lights and decorations, and get to work. That said, there are 7 important holiday lights safety tips we want you to observe to keep yourself, your home, and your family safe.
Holiday Lights Safety Tips: 7 Simple Rules
These 7 simple rules will help to keep you, your loved ones, and your home safe from fires or other safety hazards associated with hanging and displaying holiday lights.
Contact a licensed electrician to discuss over-the-top holiday lighting plans
There’s no need to call an electrician if all you do is string a few lights around the roofline and on a few trees or bushes. In that case, all you need to do is make sure you are using adequate, outdoor/weather-worthy lights and that you are honoring the maximum electrical load capacity for your outdoor electrical outlets.
That segues to the theme of contacting an electrician if necessary. If you are a home that likes to go all out, you need to make sure your outdoor electrical outlets can safely handle the load. Overloading the circuits, especially if you use outdated lighting fixtures or holiday decorations/accessories can lead to sparks, fires, and circuit disruptions.
Your electrician can work with you to ensure you have ample and safe power options, including dedicated circuits that are hidden around your landscape design and that are used exclusively to keep your holiday lighting displays and decorations as safe as possible. Never use anyone who isn’t licensed to do professional work around your home to ensure it is done to code.
Only use GFCI circuits for outdoor lights
If your home is older, make sure to replace old exterior outlets with GFCI options. This ensures the circuits immediately cut off with any water or moisture that could cause electrical shorts or electrocution. GFCI circuits also cut off the current if there is an overload.
If you can’t afford an electrician this year or don’t have time to consult with one, you can purchase portable, outdoor GFCI circuits at your local hardware store.
Have your fireplace cleaned and your HVAC system inspected
A toasty warm house, including a roaring fire, is part of the ambiance we associate with holidays and gift-giving. That means people crank up the heaters, fire up their fireplaces or woodburning stove, and kick back together enjoying their holiday decorations and traditional holiday foods and activities.
Before you do all that, make sure you’ve had your fireplace and chimney cleaned by the professionals, and that you’ve scheduled your HVAC contractor for your pre-winter HVAC tune-ups and duct cleaning. While it’s great to spark a little magic inside the home, you definitely don’t want an oversight of your annual maintenance to spark anything more than that.
Along those same lines, be extra careful with real candles that use flame for illumination or ambiance, especially around your tree or other hanging decorations. Always extinguish any flames when you leave the room or go to bed at night.
Use designated holiday lights hooks and hangers
Many people use nails or screws to hang up their lights. While this may be affordable and a seemingly good DIY way to hold lights in place, it can be dangerous. For one thing, when pounded or screwed into the wrong spots – or deeper than necessary – homeowners and renters can unknowingly penetrate waterproofing materials or other essential roofing components. That can lead to leaks and water damage that go unnoticed until you are facing expensive water damage, mold and mildew issues, and/or leak repair bills.
If those nails or screws rust or sharp angles penetrate the lighting cords, you also risk sparks, exposed electrical wires, electrical shock, or even fire damage. Invest in approved, insulated holiday light hanging accessories designed to display your lights beautifully and without any risks to your home or safety.
Make personal safety a priority when hanging holiday lights
Hanging holiday lights means accessing high or awkward spaces, and that puts you at risk for injury. Observing best safety practices is essential for preventing unnecessary injuries or accidents.
- Gather all of the materials you’ll need beforehand to minimize trips up and down the ladder
- Have a partner help you for efficiency and safety
- Plug all of your lights in before ascending a ladder or trying to hang them so you can repair or replace strands/bulbs as needed on the ground
- Use a good, sturdy ladder that is open completely and being used as per the manufacturer’s instructions
- Use non-slip shoes or boots and examine all surfaces carefully before you step out on them to avoid slip and fall accidents
- Use UL-approved extension cords whenever you need one
- Make the switch to LED lights whenever possible. In addition to saving on energy consumptions/costs, they are cool burning and much less likely to cause any type of electrical or fire hazard.
Avoid overloaded electrical circuits
We mentioned consulting with a licensed electrician about safe, manageable electrical sources for your outdoor displays, but make sure you avoid overloaded electrical outlets and circuits in your interior displays as well.
Those holiday villages can require a fair amount of electricity, as do the multiple light strands used for your tree, mantle, or around the perimeters of a room. Read, Prevent Electrical Fires with Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters, to learn more about what you can do to prevent overloaded circuits and to prevent any threat of sparks, shorts, or fires from overloaded electrical outlets.
While any AFCIs act as the ultimate safety guard, you should also use common sense when plugging in all those lights and other mechanized holiday decorations:
- Keep an outlet’s total load to under 15 Amps
- Follow manufacturer’s safety directions/recommendations
- Replace any strands or accessories that have worn out cords
- Repair or replace decorations with loose light bulb connections
- Always unplug lights when you go to bed or leave the house (timers work great for this)
Inspect your attic while you’re at it
As long as you’re headed into the attic to gather holiday lights and other decorations, take the time to give the attic a once over. Is your insulation looking adequate without being matted, moved out of place, or water damaged? Is there evidence of mold or pest infestations? Do you feel any drafts indicating there may be some air sealing needed?
If so, contact your local insulation contractor and schedule a professional inspection and maintenance call.
The team at Attic Solutions wishes you and your family a very safe and enjoyable holiday lights and decorating season.