by Erin Vaughan, Modernize
Jingle all the way…to the ER? According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 12,000 or more reported emergencies involving holiday lighting each year. But that’s certainly not what you want to be thinking about when you’re gathered round the tree.
The best present you can give yourself this year is a little peace of mind. And that’s not too hard to do when you follow best practices for seasonal lighting. With the proper equipment and lighting techniques, you can avoid a holiday disaster, and still get the most beautiful lights on the block.
Replace Incandescent String Lights with LEDs
LED lights usually get promoted solely for their energy efficiency—but they also run much cooler than incandescent lights, as well. In consumer testing, LEDs ran over 200 degrees cooler than comparable incandescent lights, a trend that translates over to your seasonal decorations, as well. Cooler lights means less danger for combustion, so LEDs are typically considered safer than their incandescent counterparts.
Of course, simply purchasing LED lights can’t root out every problem. You also need to make sure you use safe practices with extension cords and outlets, as well. But they can certainly eliminate some of the risks associated with decorating—which is definitely one way to make things merry and bright!
Use Caution When Hanging Exterior Lights
We’ve all seen the damage that can come from improper lighting techniques (if not, stop reading this article, watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and come back). However, unlike in the realm of fiction, accidents here can result in serious injuries that are nothing to laugh about.
If you’re hanging lights high, make sure that you have a sturdy ladder, and stand it on even ground. Move the ladder as you go instead of reaching too far to your left or your right. Invest in a set of light holders rather than using nails or a staple gun—and give yourself some extra cookies for being smarter than Clark Griswold.
Look Your Lights Over
A lot can happen in a year while lights are stored away in the attic. Make sure to give every strand a visual inspection—and don’t chance it with frayed or damaged lights.
Plug string lights in before hanging them. If they don’t light up, then they’re no good to you anyway, and it will save you the hassle of hanging your lights, only to have to take them all down again. And who needs that wasted time during this busy season?
Use the Proper Lights, Cords, and Outlets
Minus the right equipment, even the most magical light display can go sour fast. If you’re putting lights outdoors this year, make sure both the lights and any extension cords you use are rated for exterior use. Lights should be waterproof, as well, to protect them from wintry weather. Also, check that your cords are UL-approved—this independent consumer safety group tests commercial electrical products to verify their safety.
Outlets, too, need to be chosen with safety in mind. Install lights on a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. As the name suggests, this kind of outlet will interrupt the electrical circuit if the outlet becomes overloaded. Obviously, you should avoid plugging too many different lights into the same outlet, as well, but this will help you avoid sparks if you happen to go overboard.
With some lighting smarts, the only fires you’ll be seeing this year will be for those roasting chestnuts! Wishing you and your family a happy and safe holiday!
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener, and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX, where she writes full time for Modernize with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.