Holiday Lights Safety Tips: Preventing Fire and Electrical Hazards

Many families have a tradition of spending the weekend after Thanksgiving getting for the Christmas season. After a hearty brunch of Thanksgiving leftovers, a favorite Christmas album is put on, the decorations are brought up from the basement, and it’s all hands on deck hanging up strings of lights and garlands of tinsel. Just don’t forget about holiday lights safety!

Indoor and outdoor lighting decorations create a festive mood for the holidays and are many people’s favorite part of the season. However, holiday lights are responsible for an estimated 160 million home fires and $9 million in property damage each year. In order to make sure your home stays merry and bright this season, perform a holiday lights safety check before plugging in and lighting up the holiday display.

General Holiday Lights Safety Tips

Inspect every string of holiday lights for frayed, loose, or exposed wires before using. Discard or repair any that are damaged.

Never use a string of lights that’s missing a bulb. Empty sockets can cause the string to overheat, increasing risk of starting a fire.

Always unplug lights before replacing bulbs, repairing wire damage, or replacing fuses.

Do not use staples or nails to hang up strings of lights. They can penetrate the wire insulation and create a fire hazard.

Avoid pinching cords in doors, windows, or beneath heaving furniture, which can also damage the insulation.

Set timers for electrical decorations. Lights left on too long can overheat and become a fire hazard.

Avoid using candles whenever possible. Consider a battery-operated candle instead.

Store electrical decorations safely. Tangled cords a pain to unpack next season, and are more likely to cause damaged cords or broken sockets. Coil strings neatly around a stiff piece of cardboard, then store in a sturdy container kept in a cool, dry location.

Indoor Holiday Lights 

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for how many strings of lights you can safely connect without overloading the circuit. The typical limit is three.

Avoid overloading circuits and outlets with too many electrical decorations. An overloaded outlet is at increased risk of overheating and causing a fire.

If purchasing a live tree, select the freshest one available. Fresh trees will stay green longer and present less of a fire hazard. For artificial trees, be sure to purchase one marked as fire resistant.

Position your tree at least 3 feet from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters.

Take indoor lights down in a timely manner, especially if you have a real Christmas tree. The longer the tree sits out, the drier the branches will become and the higher their likelihood of catching fire.

Read More: Safety Tips for Outdoor Holiday Decorations

Outdoor Holiday Lights

Make sure any exterior lights are rated for outdoor use. Electrical decorations need to be weather-resistant in order to be safely used outside.

Likewise, outdoor lights should not be used indoors, as they are too hot for indoor use.

To check whether a string of lights is rated for indoor or outdoor use, look at the color-coded UL sticker on the box. A green UL mark means indoor only, while a red mark says the lights are rated for indoor or outdoor use.

Attach all outdoor lights securely to a firm support such as a tree or the house in order to protect them from wind damage.

Take outdoor lights down within 90 days to prevent extensive damage from weather or animals.

Not sure if your home electrical is up to the challenge?
Bonfe is your electrical upgrade expert. We can get your home updated with the latest electrical components so you can light up the neighborhood in style. Contact us to schedule your electrical service upgrade.


Original post published December 2, 2015. Updated November 25, 2016.

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