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Do this for better Christmas light safety inside and outside

Stay safe this holiday season

Two people hanging Christmas lights outside Credit: Getty Images / Aleksandar Nakic

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Christmas lights are one of the many joys of the season. They light up your home and neighborhood, spreading cheer far and wide. Maybe you’ve even spent an evening in the car driving around with your little ones, looking for the best displays.

But here’s the thing, you want your Christmas lights to stay merry and bright, but not to become a danger to your home and loved ones. Lighting and electrical equipment is involved in 45% of Christmas fires, so as you’re decking your halls and your yard this year, let safety be front of mind.

To provide guidance on how to keep your home safe this holiday season, Chris Alexakis, a certified building contractor in Florida, and Michael Dean, a 25-year veteran of the swimming pool and yard industry have shared their expertise that homeowners may not consider this holiday season.

From start to finish, you don’t want to cut corners when putting up your lights. These safety tips may just save you a trip to the emergency room or a call to the fire department.

Carefully inspect your lights

Tangled up christmas lights with some tape around them
Credit: Getty Images / Maria Dremova

It’s important to do a thorough inspection to look for exposed wire and any faulty bulbs.

From the moment you get the lights out of storage, be thinking about safety.

Alexakis says, “Problem lights can still conduct electricity, and depending on the material the lights sit on, they can act as conduit, so you should make sure they're working in good conditions.”

Dean echoes the statement noting that it’s important to do a thorough inspection to look for exposed wire and any faulty bulbs.

“All it takes is one broken bulb to start an electrical fire,” he says. “If you do notice your Christmas lights are broken, cover the wire or bulb with some duct tape, or simply buy a new set altogether.”

This is where those back up bulbs—that you hopefully didn’t throw out—come in handy. If they’re long gone, you can find replacements online. Just make sure to check the correct size and wattage of the lights. For any exposed wire, keep some electrician’s tape on hand to protect any frays that may have happened since last year.

At the end of the day, investing in a new set of lights is the best idea. A fresh set will save you the headache of missing lights and PS: don’t forget to keep the spare bulbs this time. It’s also a good opportunity to upgrade to LED lights. You’ll save a bundle of energy and money.

Avoid tripping hazards

Extension cord attached to the end of a Christmas light
Credit: Getty Images / bgwalker

Be thoughtful about where you place your Christmas tree, and do so as close to an outlet as possible.

No matter where you’re hanging lights—outdoors or around the Christmas tree—keeping wires in check is crucial.

“This is so you can avoid any tampering caused by pets, and to mitigate the risk of anyone tripping and injuring themselves” advises Dean.

Be thoughtful about where you place your Christmas tree, and do so as close to an outlet as possible. If not, run any long, loose cords along the wall.

If for any reason you need to run a cord across a major walkway in your home, consider taping it down. This can prevent major injuries from little ones tripping while chasing each other or an unsteady loved one’s walker getting caught.

When running cords outside, a brightly colored cord can alert you to a tripping hazard. No one needs a fall while shoveling.

Install the lights safely

Person's feet on a wooden ladder
Credit: Getty Images /Alena Paulus

A sudden shock paired with a metal ladder can be lethal so using a wooden ladder will protect from major injury.

Do you have major envy over the house in the neighborhood with extravagant lights? If so, you need to exercise caution when installing lights.

Basic safety precautions are always important. Lock the ladder securely in place, make sure the steps aren’t icey, and always have a spotter. You may want to consider what kind of ladder you’re using as well.

Deans says, “When hanging lights outdoors, make sure you use a wooden ladder, as opposed to one that can conduct electricity.” A sudden shock paired with a metal ladder can be lethal. Plastic and fiberglass are other non-conductive materials to look for but avoid anything constructed entirely out of metal.

Ensure all your gear is waterproof and weather-proof

Wreath hanging on a brick wall with an extension cord attached.
Credit: Getty Images / steverts

While you may be checking the lights to make sure they’re safe for outdoor use, the extension cords and outlets they’re connected to are equally important.

When you’re out browsing for new lights this season, read the details on every box carefully, and consider what you need for where you’re located.

Dean says, “If you live in a location that has heavy rain or snowfall, try looking for weather-proof lights.” While many boxes note they’re approved for outdoor use, verify that they are waterproof to ensure that they’ll hold up through all the elements.

But don’t stop at your lights. Consider the extension cords they’ll be plugged into, as well.

Alexakis says, “When it comes to outdoor use, it's very easy to fixate on making sure the installation and the lights are waterproof, but completely overlook the extensions and outlets.”

While you may be checking the lights to make sure they’re safe for outdoor use, the extension cords and outlets they’re connected to are equally important.

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