I’m sure you’ll find a lot of people trying to do their best Clark Griswold impression this Christmas season, hoping to make their homes visible from outer space. There are safe ways to do that, but there were still over 200 house fires started by Christmas light displays last year.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make sure your lights won’t become a fire hazard in your home! Here are some important ones.
1. Avoid removing ground pins from electrical plugs
The ground pin is that third prong that electrical plugs have. Most outlets have three prongs but some older ones just have two. It is very dangerous to remove the grounding prong to make a three-prong plug into a two-prong plug.
There are adapters you can buy that are much safer and do not create a fire hazard.
2. Use proper lighting hangers
Yes, buying clips or hangers for your lights can add to the expense of Christmas lights, but running nails or tacks through them simply isn’t safe. You can damage the insulation or coating and expose wiring, which can lead to a structure fire.
3. Mind that ladder safety
Ladder safety is extremely important! Make sure you have a stable ladder, preferably one made of fiberglass since you will be hanging electrical wires (and fiberglass isn’t a conductor like metal is). Have someone hold the base of the ladder for you if at all possible.
4. Make sure your extension cords and light fixtures are rated for outdoor use
There is a difference between interior and exterior light fixtures and extension cords besides the price! It can create a fire hazard to use internal electrical equipment for external purposes, especially with extension cords.
5. Avoid combining metallic ornaments and lights
Any time you have electrical power running into a metal housing, there’s a potential danger. If there is a wiring fault, the metallic housing can become a conductor of electricity and a fire hazard. It’s better to keep metallic ornaments and electric lights separated.
6. Visually inspect all of your power cords and light strands
If you can see exposed wiring or damaged plastic coating anywhere, you are better off not using them. Exposed wire is a safety hazard!
7. Consider using LED lights
While LED lights are more expensive to buy up front, they cost less to operate and burn much cooler than typical lights. The risk of heat-related fires is greatly minimized because they are so much cooler in temperature
8. Don’t overload your electrical circuits
You know the Clark Griswold setup, with 30 strands of lights plugged into a series of power strip? That will overload your circuit. While this risk is greatly reduced with LED lights, you can still overload your circuit. While the circuit breaker should trip and disable the circuit, there’s always the chance of a fire hazard when you have an overloaded circuit.
Signs your circuit is overloaded:
- Buzzing or flickering lights
- Circuit breaker is tripping
- Warm power outlets or power cords
- Sparking around outlet (probably should call an electrician here)
- Crackling sounds
Now, if your neighborhood likes to get competitive with their lights, or you like to be the house that everyone stops to look at when they’re driving around looking at Christmas lights, go right ahead! Just make sure you’re following these safety tips so your home can be beautiful and safe this winter.