There’s nothing like a cheery holiday display to light up the winter darkness. But those electrical lights can become dangerous if they’re damaged or misused.
By following these simple safety tips, you can ensure that you and your family enjoy a safe and joyous holiday season.
1. Buy Only Decorations That Have Been Certified
Shop at trusted retailers, and only buy decorations that have one of these ESA-recognized certification markings. They should show on the package and on a sticker attached to the cord. You can learn more about certifications on the ESA site.
Where possible, choose LED lights for your displays. They use less power and produce less heat. They often have plastic bulbs, not glass, and are less likely to break.
2. Use Outdoor Lights Outdoors, Indoor Light Indoors
You can’t mix and match – lights are specifically rated for indoors or out. The package should clearly state the intended use for the lights.
3. Take Care When Connecting Outdoor Lights
Outdoor lights should be plugged into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) outlet. It will shut off the power if an unintended flow (like through water) is detected.
Ensure outlets and lights aren’t in a spot where they’re vulnerable to water or falling ice. Running lights across walkways or driveways is also a tripping hazard.
When you’re setting up your ladder to head up to the roof or into a tree, keep an eye out for nearby powerlines. They can turn your ladder into a shock hazard.
4. Choose the Right Tree
Natural trees can be a great choice, but only if they’re fresh and moist. Check for sap, and keep it well watered. Dispose of the tree when it stops using noticeable amounts of water and more needles fall.
Artificial trees cost less over time, and don’t turn into tinder.
5. Don’t Overload Outlets
Plugging too many lights into an outlet can draw too much power, causing the outlet to overheat and starting a fire. Check the package and know how much power your lights are using.
The same principle goes for “daisy-chaining” strings of lights, or connecting them end-to-end. The instructions for your lights will tell you how many are safe to plug together.
If you’re using an extension cord, check this tip sheet to ensure you’re using it safely. Don’t run cords under carpets or furniture, and inspect them for damage.
6. Keep Children and Pets Away from Plugs and Cords
Explain to young children that the lights are for looking at, not playing with, and supervise toddlers who are too young to understand the dangers.
Pets, especially young ones, may be attracted to cords and may try to chew on them. Cats may try to climb displays, so if needed keep them out of rooms with extra cords unless you’re around.
7. Unplug Lights While Sleeping or When You Leave Your Home
Unplugging lights when you’re not around reduces the risk of fire damage.
Should an electrical fire develop, don’t throw water on it – water conducts electricity. Small fires are best dealt with by shutting off the circuit, smothering it, or with a specially rated fire extinguisher. Don’t take chances with your family’s safety, however – for serious fires evacuate your home and call 911.
8. Don’t Leave Outdoor Lights Up All Winter
Cold temperatures can cause cracking in electrical cord exteriors over time. This can lead to exposed wires and possible fires over time.
Pack up indoor and outdoor lights separately so that it’s easy to tell which is which next year.
Safety is the Best Gift You Can Give
When it comes to electricity, safety is the best policy. It only takes a few extra steps to help ensure that your holiday lighting brings nothing but good cheer to your holiday season.
Happy Holidays from everyone at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario.