The holidays are a time for family, food, fun, and festive lights. Holiday lighting can create wonderful memories for your family, and can give any ordinary home extraordinary street appeal, if done safely and properly. No one wants their well-intentioned lighting to be the cause of fire damage. Here are some tips for keeping your home and loved ones safe this holiday season.
Before you begin:
It’s easy to overlook a cracked bulb or a bare wire, but these small defections in a string of lights can easily cause a home fire. Make sure to check each string for loose connections, burnt out bulbs or fuses, or even cracked sockets. Always remember to unplug your lights before replacing any of their parts.
Make sure your lights have the proper rating. You should only use lights that have been rated by a laboratory such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL Semko).
The Power Source:
The ideal outlet to plug your lights into is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). This specific outlet will cut power to the circuit if there is overcurrent. If you are unsure that you have such an outlet, have a licensed electrician come out to your home to check for you, and possibly install one. You can also buy a GFCI portable plug for your home at any home improvement store.
Stringing the Lights:
Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them. Especially make sure to connect the appropriate number of strings together. Never string outdoor lights near power lines, or indoor lights near heat sources of any kind.
It's always a bad idea to hang decorative lights with nails, tacks or staples as this increases the risk of damaging the protective insulation surrounding the lights. Instead, use clips specifically designed for holiday lights. You'll need to determine what clips are suitable for your home, from gutter or shingle clips, to all in one clips. You can also purchase clips designed for permanent installation to use in the future.
Before you go:
Those lights may look amazing, but a home fire definitely won’t. Always remember to turn off your holiday lights when you are going to bed or leaving your home. If you fear you might forget this task, consider getting a timer for your lights. You can set the timer to turn off each night at the time you typically get to bed, and you’ll be able to stay worry free throughout the season.
After the holidays:
It’s easy to break bulbs or strip wires when taking down and storing your lights, and to make sure you’re fire-safe for next year, make proper storage a priority. Light storage reels are a great place to start, since they will keep your lights tangle free and decrease the risk of breaking any bulbs. It’s also a great idea to have some sort of protection around your reels, like storage reel bags or plastic storage boxes, both available at your local home improvement retailer.
With these Holiday Lighting tips, you can be sure to impress your neighbors and loved ones with your lights AND your thoughtfulness for their safety.