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7 Electrical Safety Tips for Holiday Lights

Master electrician Heath Eastman shows host Kevin O’Connor what he needs to know about holiday light safety.

Kevin O’Connor and master electrician Heath Eastman meet back at the shop to talk about holiday lights. After assessing Kevin’s inability to properly store lights, Heath helps him check each strand’s condition and teaches him how to check the fuses should a strand not light. Then, the two discuss the pros and cons of LED lights and devices.

Christmas Lighting Tips

Better Storage is Key

The first step of holiday light safety is to store them away correctly each year. Avoid tangled lights that twist and knot by rolling them up neatly and storing them in a secure, hard-sided plastic tote when they’re not in use. If stored properly, they stand a better chance of working year after year with less frustration.

Check Each Strand for Damage

When removing holiday lights from storage, it’s important to check each strand for damage. Frayed wires, broken bulbs, and other dangers are common, so make sure to give each strand a look over before plugging them in. Broken bulbs are replaceable but trying to repair wires is a bad idea.

Get Them Working

If the strands are in good overall condition, plug them in and see if they work. If just a few bulbs are out, attempt to replace them. If there are several bulbs in a row out, it may be the fuses in the end of the plug. Unplug the lights, open the door on the plug, and replace the fuse with the spares that came in the light’s retail box.

LEDs are Safer

LED christmas lights weren’t everyone’s favorite at first, as the colors were off from what holiday traditionalists remember. However, today’s models are better and safer. These strands use less energy, allowing users to link more strands together than they could with incandescent bulbs. Also, these bulbs run cooler, making them less of a fire hazard.

Control Options

There are plenty of ways to control the tree’s lighting schedule. Plug-in timers that allow the user to set the device to turn on and off at specific times are great, and they come in both indoor and outdoor varieties.

Also, Wi-Fi-powered power strips are programmable via smartphone apps, and they’re great for splitting power between displays outdoors. There are even power supplies with photosensors that shut off when the sun rises and turn back on when it sets. Any of these devices ensure that lights aren’t on longer than they should be, making them inherently safer.

Protect Your Plugs

Running outdoor decorations often requires extension cords, and as those plugs lay on the ground and get wet from rain or snow, they can trip GFCI breakers and throw off the whole design. Instead, purchase plug protectors that install over the connection between two cords and create a water-resistant seal.

Consider Your Mounting Methods

Finally, consider how to mount the lights to the house. While nails driven into the home do work, they damage the siding and trim. There are clips that attach to gutters or roofing shingles, as well as adhesive hooks that will last the entire season.


Resources

Heath offers electrical safety tips for the holiday season. Before plugging anything in Heath says to check your string lights for broken or missing bulbs, frayed cords or wires showing through the insulation. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, every year 150 home fires start with holiday lights.

If you’re shopping for holiday lights, Heath advises to go for LED (light-emitting diode) lights. LED lights are cool to the touch, compared to traditional incandescent Christmas lights, and use less electricity.

Heath also suggests only using lights tested, rated, and approved by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).

Remembering to turn off your holiday lights after they’ve been on for a while or when you’re away canbe a challenge. Heath suggests using a plug-in timer to manage indoor or outdoor lighting. Heath says one of the most important things to do when putting up outdoor decorations is to use a GFCI outlet stake.

These power stakes are like surge protectors in that they offer a multitude of outlets with some overload protection options. To prevent puncturing wires, Heath says to use plastic light clips instead of nails or screws. Using a cord protector will protect electrical cord connections in wet conditions.