Your guide to Christmas lights safety


Nothing quite says ‘Happy Holidays’ like hanging roughly 25,000 lights on your house, by your house, in your house, in your trees, on your shrubs, on your lawn…

Holiday lighting is a fun, festive way to celebrate.  I don’t know about you, but I love to drive around town and look at the lights – the bigger the display the better as far as I am concerned!

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If you are a light hanger, inside or out, here are some tips to help keep you and your property safe

  • Make sure that you only use lights outdoors that are rated for outdoor use.  The same goes for indoor lighting.  Also – be sure any extension cords you use are appropriately rated indoor/outdoor, AND use only UL approved lights.
  • Make sure all outdoor receptacles are protected by a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit interrupter).
  • Make sure that you have smoke detectors in your home and that they are working, as well as a fire extinguisher.
  • Each year, examine your old lights to make sure they are in good working order, and be sure to discard strands that are worn.
  • Drop cords (aka extension cords) are the number one reason for electrical fires in homes. Never run a drop cord under a rug, especially if there is foot traffic in the area, and never overload a drop cord. Never run drop cords out windows or doors.
  • Don’t overload the circuit which the lights are on. Read the label on the box of lights for the total wattage. Most outdoor circuits should only be loaded to roughly 1,500 watts.
  • If small children are in the home consider 12 or 24-volt lights.
  • As a general rule, only three strands of lights should be linked together.

Holiday lights purchasing and installation tips

  • Don’t screw hooks into your home to hold up the lights. They will eventually rust and begin to look bad. Use the new plastic gutter hangers from the store.
  • Don’t drive nails into your roof to mount lights to. Use the new clips that mount under your shingles. However if your roof is old and brittle, don’t use the shingle mounts either. In the case of an old brittle roof…perhaps you should not put lights on your roof at all!
  • Here are the approximate number of lights needed to decorate your tree:
  • 3′ Tree: 50 – 100 Lights
  • 4′ Tree: 100 – 150 Lights
  • 5′ Tree: 150 – 200 Lights
  • 6′ Tree: 200 – 250 Lights
  • 7′ Tree: 300 – 350 Lights
  • Add 35 – 40 additional lights for each foot over 7′

Of course, if you are my neighbor, you don’t hang lights each year as much as just plug in the ones you left up from last year. If this is you, make sure you unplug the lights before you do any repairs.

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