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Keeping Your Christmas Lights Safe

Christmastime is often considered the most magical time of the year -- however, it can also be one of the most draining and dangerous for homeowners looking to go big with decorations. From home fires to electrical damage to spikes in energy bills, installing lights and other festive fun incorrectly can go from merry and bright to busted bummer real fast. If you are considering upping your Christmas spirit game this year, make sure you review our safety tips below before stringing any lights or hanging up any outdoor decorations!

Avoid These Common Festive Lighting Dangers

  • Stringing Too Many Lights or Blow-Ups Through the Same Outlet

This is a common mistake homeowners can make, especially when using extension cords. Even though stringing lights and setting up Christmas blow-ups or inflatables seems straightforward enough, without the proper preparations, you can very quickly fall into the trap of thinking every element can connect together as long as you have enough extension cords. An average circuit breaker is only able to handle around 15 amps of current. While normal Christmas light strings will only demand a few milliamps on their own, add too many to that breaker and all of a sudden you’ve maxed out -- and even overdrawn -- on power. Not only does this pose a risk for electrical wiring, it could be a safety risk as well.

  • Using Staples, Nails, or Other Sharp Hanging Methods

We’ve all seen that classic image -- a dad up on a ladder, surrounded by balls of holiday light strands and a staple gun in hand as he moves along the roof line. Of course, many people use staples or nails to hang up their Christmas lights with no problems at all, however, this isn’t the best option for several reasons. Most obviously, these sharp objects could easily damage your electrical wiring, not only causing lights to go out, but leaving them exposed to the elements and potential heat generation which can lead to sparking a home fire. It can also lead to an electrocution hazard if any metal components come into contact with a live string of holiday lights that were touching metal home materials (such as gutters). Instead, opt for plastic roof clips designed specifically for hanging outdoor lights or insulated holders.

  • Combining Old & New - LED & Incandescent Lights

Many homeowners have maintained their Christmas light collections over the years, which means they may have some older lighting or decor elements. The temptation to combine these older incandescent lights with newer LEDs when replacements are needed can be understandable. Why replace the whole collection when just a strand or two need to be updated? Well, actually there is good reason to replace all your holiday lights at one time, as incandescent lights require and drain much more power than new more energy-efficient LEDs. More than that, combining the two different light strand types can result in power overloads, which may fry the LED strings and cause other problems. If you do want to keep your older lights while adding some newer LEDs, make sure they are completely separate, with each one running through different outlets to avoid any electrical wiring complications.

Your Outdoor Decor Checklist

So you know what common mistakes to avoid now, but what about helpful steps to take? We’ve got you covered there too.

  • Make Sure You Inspect Each String Before It Goes Up

Getting your holiday lights up can be exciting and fun, but it can also be very time-consuming. Make sure you include time for inspecting and testing out each light string before they get hung up on your roof or wrapped around trees. Look out for any broken light bulbs, cracked or damaged sockets, exposed wires, or other issues. After you’ve looked for any obvious damages, be sure to plug in each strand to see how they are working and to see if there are any other unseen damages or issues. You can then replace any burnt-out bulbs before getting your lights hung or throw out any strands that can be redeemed.

  • Only Use Outdoor Lighting & Decor

There are plenty of festive decorations you can invest in for your home--both interior and exterior--so just make sure anything you purchase for your outdoor decorations is designated safe for outdoor use. It can be a common mistake of homeowners to mix indoor and outdoor decorations together in their yards, which can lead to potential issues with indoor-only lights or decor that aren’t water and weatherproof. Make sure you also use verified lighting and connect any electrical wiring to properly working outdoor outlets. When you plug your electrical decorations into a proper GFCI, you can have peace of mind knowing this outlet will cut power should any water come into contact with it, whether from rain, snow or sprinklers.

  • Upgrade to All LEDs

Having a mix of LEDs and incandescent lights and decor is ok so long as they are kept to separate outlets as covered above. Still, it is a good investment to switch over to LEDs completely, as they are an estimated 75% more efficient than traditional incandescent lights, which can result in big savings over the years. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this can shrink an average home’s electrical load by more than seven times.

Lastly, if you aren’t confident in your own abilities to safely get your Christmas or holiday lights up this year, make sure you seek professional electrical help. Even the smallest shortcut or compromise could make your home a fire hazard, so be sure to consider your household safety before you decorate this year!

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