As the holiday season approaches, many homeowners are busy adorning their homes with festive decorations and Christmas lights. While these lights add a magical touch to the season, they also bring potential risks. Did you know that US fire departments responded to an average of 150 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 793 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees.
When installing outdoor lighting, always check that your lights are outdoor approved. Indoor lights can't handle the moisture and UV exposure and definitely can't be snaked underground without risking a fire or shock. A quick glance at the manufacturer’s tag or the original box should tell you if your lights are up for an outdoor holiday display. And remember the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) logo on the label is your friend—it means your lights are up to standard.
If you need to use extension cords, take a moment to inspect them for any wear and tear. Any damage to the cord or its plug means it’s time to part ways. After all, these cords are only a short-term solution. To keep your extension cords dry, seal them in a plastic bag and secure it with a zip tie, ensuring the opening faces downward to keep out rain or snow. It’s also smart to avoid connecting multiple cords end-to-end. For safety’s sake, turn off your Christmas lights when you are not home or asleep.
Safety Precautions: Avoiding Overload
Always plug your outdoor lights and decorations into GFCI protected outlets. If you’re not equipped with these, a qualified electrician can get you set up. GFCI outlets are lifesavers, literally - they can prevent shocks if your electricals meet water.
Be mindful not to overload receptacles or circuits. The general rule is to plug no more than three sets of incandescent string lights into a single outlet. With LED lights, you may be able to use more than three sets thanks to their lower power needs. The packaging should guide you on what’s safe.
After ensuring your lights aren’t posing electrical overload, continue to keep flammability top of mind. When you're stringing up those lights, indoors or out, always opt for proper clips or fasteners made specifically for this purpose. Nails or tacks might seem handy, but they can damage your lights and pose a serious fire risk.
If you choose a real Christmas tree for your holiday decor, be sure to maintain its hydration. A well-watered tree is not only more vibrant and healthy-looking but also significantly safer. Dry trees are a major fire hazard due to their increased flammability. By keeping the tree hydrated, you drastically reduce this risk.
By keeping these tips in mind, we can all ensure our homes are safe and bright for the holidays. Let's make this season memorable for all the right reasons!
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