Handyman Help: Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights Safely

Holiday lights around a tree trunkDecorating the interior and exterior of a home with lights adds to the festive and cheerful mood of the holiday season. Many individuals go all out to create a home that lights up the block. Unfortunately, according to the National Fire Protection Association, decorative lights start about 170 home structure fires each year, causing an average of seven deaths. Christmas trees also start an average of 250 home structure fires yearly, resulting in about 14 deaths.

Safety awareness and proper decorating practices are important to prevent such accidents from happening in your home. Verify the rating of holiday lights before decorating your house. Do not purchase or hang lights that have not been tested and rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL Semko). The safety rating is clearly marked on the packaging and on the label attached to the electrical cord. Once you have checked out the safety rating, use the lights as directed. For example, do not use indoor lights outdoors and vice versa. Put the lights to use in the proper environment for which they were intended.

Check the lights for fraying once you have taken them out of storage. If you notice any other damage, discard the string of lights, to reduce the risk of an electrical short. Hanging damaged or frayed strands of lights can damage your other lights and decorations. Avoid handling holiday lights near anything that may cause a fire hazard such as candles, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. Keep bulbs away from loose paper and other flammable materials. When hanging the lights, use insulated holders instead of tacks, staples, or nails.

Once the lights are ready to go up, choose the right extension cords from a retailer such as EquipSupply.com. Do not overload extension cords with more wattage than they are designed to handle. Place the cords out of the way, so that they don’t pose a tripping hazard. Do not keep cords taut, as doing so will increase the risk of the cords pulling over a tree or another decorations in their way.

Turn the holiday lights off when you are not home and when everyone is asleep. Leaving the lights on when the house is unattended reduces the possibility of a fire emergency. This is especially important in homes with pets as they may step on a switch, chew through cords, or pull on wires.

When you notice that a bulb has burnt out, replace it right away. Leaving empty sockets on a light string that is turned ON is dangerous. If a home has young children or pets, it’s wise to place lights out of reach.

Following these precautions will keep you, your family, and your house safe this holiday season.