In October we gave safety tips for Halloween decorations. While Halloween displays have gotten more popular, Christmas is still the top holiday for home lights and decorations. We’ll review the previous tips, in addition to going over do’s and dont’s for indoor/outdoor winter wonderlands.

Outdoor Lighting

The first step in hanging holiday lights and decorations is to get rid of weak tree branches, pick up yard debris, and clear out house gutters. Depending on where you live, ice, snow or wind could play havoc with the nicest yard panorama. Lights can be dragged down by extra weight and debris can damage expensive yard decorations.

As noted in our October post, it’s important to be certain that your lights have the UL (Underwriters Lab) mark, or one from another trusted facility. OSHA has a list of recognized light and electronic testing laboratories here.

Did you know that there are indoor/outdoor lights? But not every light is. For indoor/outdoor lights, look for a red label. A green label indicates the light is for indoor use only.

As always, check old lights for frayed cords, bent prongs, or exposed wiring. These are potential fire hazards, and clues that the lights should be discarded. With the South in a drought, it’s worth spending extra money to avoid a fire.

A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) as an absolutely necessary outlet for outdoors. A certified quality electrician can install a permanent one for you, or you can pick up a temporary one from your local hardware store. This interrupter (also called a residual-current device) will shut down the circuit if there’s an overcurrent. Simply put, it prevents short circuiting. A safe, simple tool to avoid holiday headaches.

You also want to avoid overloading your home’s circuits. Overloading is when there is more  current being drawn than the circuit can supply. This can lead to overheating, system shut-downs, and even fires. Avoid this by checking the wattage of all lights and plug-ins (the watts should be printed on each device). Adding more extension cords and power strips does not spread out and reduce the wattage; each device will draw the power it needs.

A single outlet can handle 1,500 to 1,800 watts. So add up the wattage from every item, and make sure not to go over. Don’t bite off more than your house can handle.

Basically, if your garage outlet looks like Clark Griswold’s, you may want to cut back on the lights.

Indoor lighting

The rules for indoor lights work the same as outdoor lights. Check labels for safety and proper usage, and check for frayed cords, exposed wires, etc. Avoid overloading your home’s plugs.

Plug your lights in before hanging them up. This lets you know which bulbs are burnt out, and gives you a chance to check for broken sockets. Most boxed lights come with replacement sockets, and you can pick up extras at your local store.

When running wires indoors, please keep foot traffic in mind. Keep wires along walls, but do not hide under rugs, string across doorways, or wrap around table legs.

Nowadays, most lights are LED, which means they don’t heat up like the old-school lights. Don’t be cocky about leaving them on 24/7, though. An under-watered tree and a hot set of lights can cause a fire in minutes. All those precautionary measures on wires, sockets, and certified testing labs are to prevent this tragedy. So remember: keep your tree watered and unplug all lights before leaving the house or going to bed.

This is not electrical, but still important: Make sure all chimney flues are clean and clear before lighting fireplaces. If you’re using candles as decoration, do not place on a tree or anywhere near flammable decorations. Keep candles off any surfaces subject to spills and bumps from guests, and make sure they are not within the reach of young ones. And properly extinguish all flames, even little ones, before bedtime or leaving the house.

With the variety of winter-and-holiday displays growing, and too many television specials covering the biggest, loudest, and brightest displays, the temptation to make your own Winter Wonderland festival is a huge temptation. Following these steps will help you create the best for your home, and make sure it’s around for many future holidays.

Happy Holidays from our Radco Electric family to yours!


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