A favorite movie scene is Clark Griswold attempting to get all his holiday lights working in Christmas Vacation. That movie demonstrates nearly every single home safety hazard known to mankind along with a few we’ve never even contemplated. While watching Clark in action can be enormously amusing, it also demonstrates real safety challenges that happen this time of year.
It’s estimated that over 1,100 home fires each year begin with holiday decorations, and that doesn’t count Christmas tree fires. Not only that, roughly 5,800 people each year are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries from falls from ladders on roofs while putting up holiday decorations. Then there are approximately 4,000 injuries from extension cords either from tripping or electrical burns and shocks.
We’d rather you and your family not show upon a dreary list of safety statistics. So, we’ve pulled together a list of safety tips to guide your installation of holiday outdoor lighting.
electrical lighting safety
Inspect your current boxes of electric lights for signs of wear, cracked or broken bulbs, and particularly exposed wires. When you’re replacing those strings of lights look for outdoor-rated lights. Outdoor rated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) means they have been tested for rain, high humidity, and other outdoor hazards.
Consider purchasing LED lights that not only save power due to low electricity requirements but also do not get hot to the touch. But don’t connect LED lights into the same string as incandescent lights as you can fry the LED string, creating a fire hazard.
Make sure you never string too many lights together, which can overload electrical circuits. The rule-of-thumb is no more than three light strings together. And do not overload electrical outlets with too many cords plugged into the same outlet.
Avoid running extension cords or light strings through a doorway or window. The pressure of the window or door can break the wires or wear them down causing an electric shock hazard. Plus, they form a tripping hazard. Prevent tripping hazards by running extension cords along the outside walls and away from any doorways and sidewalks. Keep them out of the way.
Yet another thing to watch is that extension cord junctions stay out of the snow and any water on the ground. They need to be elevated to prevent electrical short circuits.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection is essential for all your outdoor electrical outlets. Install weather-resistant GFCI outlets which are also tamper-resistant.
Non-Metal Binding Materials–never use metal staples, tacks, or nails as they can pierce insulated electrical wires. Instead, use nonconductive plastic hooks.
Keep well clear of any power lines during your installation. Don’t string lights over the top of the electrical wires running to your home. Leave at least ten feet in distance both for the lights and for your working positions.
Turn off all indoor and outdoor decorative lights before leaving home or heading to bed for the night. Also, consider a programmable timer that can activate your lights at just the right time of the evening and turn them off later for safety.
Decorative Lighting Installation Safety
When hanging those lights, make sure you follow ladder safety practices. Make hanging lights a two-person sport. Have one on the ladder and the other spotting the ladder to make sure it doesn’t tip.
On that point, don’t extend your body further than parallel with the ladder. Hanging way out to get to the last point on the roof with your last light string, can easily bring the ladder and you crashing to the ground.
Finally, for electrical safety consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder to avoid shock hazards.
As a final word, make sure you and your family are safe this year while installing holiday decorations and as you turn them on each evening. Don’t use Clark Griswold as your holiday safety model!
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In the meantime, stay safe this coming winter. We’ve also published Winter Driving Safety Tips that can always come in handy on our roads and highways.