The most wonderful time of the year ushers in the opportunity to decorate with all things bright and glittery, and a stunning light display is just what some people need to get into the spirit of the season. While you're fiddling with bulbs and stringing lights, follow sound safety tips to keep your displays from causing a fire or other electrical services problems.
Lights all aglow make for beautiful holiday displays indoors or out. Before putting your lights up for the season, carefully inspect them for any signs of wear, like stripped wires or cracks in the cords. Don't use anything that looks worn or damaged; frayed or stripped wires are a major fire hazard.
Outdoor Light Displays
Don't use any lights outdoors unless the packaging or label clearly states they're rated for outdoor use. Exposure to the elements can easily damage indoor lights and create a dangerous situation. Keep outdoor lights away from any power lines and only attach them using clips or hooks made for stringing lights. Using staples or nails can damage the cords. Don't overload your electrical supply either -- only three light strings should be plugged into each other at a time. It's best to use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet with outdoor lights. If you don't have one, call a licensed electrician to install one for you. Blown fuses indicate that you're overloading the circuit, so if you're replacing fuses after stringing your lights, move some of them to a different outlet.
Tree Light Safety
When decorating your tree, keep your light wires loose, as excessive twisting and pulling can damage the cords. Don't neglect to inspect the lights on a pre-lit artificial tree. Replace any broken bulbs and don't plug the tree in if the cords are damaged. If you have a real tree, keep it watered daily to prevent it from drying out and becoming more susceptible to fire from the heat of the bulbs. Don't leave your tree lights on constantly. Turn them off for awhile if they've been on for many hours, and never leave them on when you're heading to bed or leaving the house.
If you're using extension cords for your light display, make sure they're out of the way of any foot traffic. Don't run cords under your carpet or rugs. Cords that are stepped on can easily become damaged and ignite, especially if they're in contact with fabric like carpeting. Only use extension cords approved for outdoor use in displays outside your home. Keep them free of snow and water puddles, and don't run them over steps or through doorways where they could be damaged or create a tripping hazard.
Updating Your Decorations
Even if your lights look okay, it may be time for an upgrade if they're getting on in years. Newer LED lights are an excellent choice for a replacement since they do not generate heat like traditional bulbs. LED bulbs aren't made from glass, so they tend to last longer and are more durable for storage. Most LED light strings don't have the "one goes out and they all go out" problem many older traditional string lights have either. Look for recognized certification symbols, such as the UL symbol from Underwriters Laboratories, when buying new lightse