Whether it’s put up on your roof’s edge, on Rudolf, on an indoor Christmas tree or a bright window, just about everyone loves the cheer of a beautiful holiday lighting display, but it’s important to keep safety in mind.
‘Safety First’ To Keep Your Holidays Jolly!
Unfortunately, there are gremlins and pitfalls that cause large numbers of injuries, lost lives, and lost property every year around the holidays. More than 40% of Christmas tree fires are caused by lighting or associated electrical equipment. And decorating can be dangerous: according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average, there are about 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season, with about half of the incidents involving falls. In the 2018 holiday season, about 17,500 people went to emergency rooms due to holiday decorating-related injuries.
Indoor Holiday Lighting Safety
String Lights Safety
Let’s start indoors, specifically with your tree lighting. First, use LED lighting, not the much hotter-burning incandescent bulbs. They will also last many times longer, possibly never need replacement, and they use 20% or less of the power needed by the older technology. Be sure the light strings you buy carry the UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) endorsement and there is a tag on the strings that say so.
If you really must use incandescent lights, be sure to do one thing. Lay the string out, plug it in, and replace any lights that are out or have blackness inside the bulb. While some strings will go out entirely when a bulb burns out, one type of string will keep all the lights on (except the burnt ones). The problem with this is the remaining bulbs will burn even hotter (and burn out faster). If you use a power strip, outlet plug multiplier, or an extension cord be sure it is also UL or ETL certified.
Keep your tree watered! Turn the tree lights off when you’re not at home or are in bed! If the tree becomes noticeably dry, do not use lights on it and preferably dispose of it!
Candle and Fire Safety
Many people use candles at the holidays more than at other times of the year. Candles add a warm glow unlike any lightbulb. Just be sure to never leave a candle unattended, especially around children or pets.
If your home has a fireplace, you may be using it more around the holidays as a warm gathering place and beautiful focal point for your family celebrations. Make sure you have your chimney cleaned regularly and keep a close eye on fires you light, so that flames and sparks stay inside the fireplace.
Outdoor Holiday Lighting Safety
Now let’s step outside. Our concerns here are electrical shock prevention, fire prevention, ladder safety, and the hazards of being a ‘stuntman’ as you put up lights decorative elements around your roof.
Just as indoors, check that everything that will use or transfer power carries the UL or ETL tag. Just as indoors, use LEDs. Provide power to your lights with a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. If you don’t have this type of outlet outside your home, you should have all outdoor outlets replaced with the GFCI type (OHM can help you with this!). We won’t go into the technicalities but if you want to learn more, go here https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/099_0.pdf .
If your outdoor outlet is not the GFCI type, there is a workaround you can use. Get a power strip with GFCI protection on it. Plug that strip into your outdoor outlet and plug the light string(s) into the power strip. Be sure all connections between cords are plugged in all the way and kept DRY. If you have any concern that one of these could get a little wet, tightly double-wrap electrical tape around the connection to prevent water intrusion. Guess what? Be sure the roll of tape specifies that it is UL or ETL certified. DEFINITELY put the power strip in a location that will stay dry; do not try to seal it shut. Again, it really is best to have GFCI outlets outdoors, especially in the wet Seattle area weather. OHM can install outdoor GFCI outlets for you or replace your existing outlets with GFCI outlets.
Ladder safety cannot be stressed enough. Always have a spotter to help keep the ladder steady and provide a second pair of eyes. Keep your body parallel with the ladder to avoid tipping. Wear shoes that are compatible with the ladder rungs, in terms of traction and shape. Climb and descend slowly and use the 3-point method used by mountaineers – two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot in contact with the ladder at all times. Here is some additional ladder safety information at https://www.americanladderinstitute.org/page/BasicLadderSafety.
Finally, back to that tree inside–Be sure to check its water level every day and refill when necessary!
OHM Electrical Contracting can install new outlets inside or out, update aging outlets, and we can check your existing wiring to make sure it is up to current electrical codes and can meet your electrical needs–including any increased demand around the holiday!