It’s the most wonderful time of year, when families all over dig out lights, Santa figurines, and old childhood crafts out of their basements and garages for that favorite December past time: decorating for the holidays.
While it’s a merry making time, when decorations can add that extra feel good for the special season, it’s important to remember that some of our favorite decorations do come with some risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday lighting causes over 850 home fires each year. In addition, approximately 210 home fires are caused by Christmas Trees.
Don’t let an electrical fire ruin your holiday this year, read over these tips on how not to shock yourself or burn the house down:
Outside Lighting and Decorations
- First things first, make sure that all of your lights for outside are rated for outdoor use. Putting indoor only lights outside in the snow and ice can cause electric shock and create fire hazards.
- Be sure to check for damaged lines and bulbs before hanging them. There’s nothing more annoying than stringing the entire house before realizing that the line is a dud or that you need a new fuse. To avoid a shock, be sure to unplug your lights before switching out bulbs.
- While we would all like our home to light up like the Griswold’s, it’s important to know your limitations. Don’t overload your extension cords. Before plugging in, find out the wattage rating of your extension cord, as well as any special power requirements for any of the lights or decorations. A wattage rating is the amount of electricity that the cord is built to carry, and if your power requirements exceed that it can easily overheat and a fire can occur.
- Periodically check your lighting wires and extension cords to make sure they’re not warm to the touch.
- Holiday lights should always be turned off before going to bed or leaving the house for long periods of time. Timers for outdoor lighting are available, so that you don’t have to worry about it day to day.
- The general rule of thumb for stringing light cords together is 3 strands maximum.
Setting Up Your Christmas Tree
- If you’re using a real tree this Christmas, make sure that it’s needles are fresh and green before bringing it home. If you can easily snap branches from the tree it is too dry and will create a fire hazard. Another great test is shaking the tree, if a bunch of needles fall off it is too dry to take home.
- If you go for an artificial tree, make sure it’s fire retardant.
- Put your real Christmas tree in water, your trees water intake will make it harder for your tree to catch fire. For a frame of reference, a 6 foot tree can consume about a gallon of water a day.
- The typical placement of your Christmas tree is in the living room or near the fireplace, just make sure that it is a minimum of 3 feet away from any heat source, candle or open fire.
- It is extremely important to check your light cords and bulbs before stringing them on the tree. Look for fraying wires, cracks, or damaged bulbs and plugs.
- Purchase electrical decorations that are recognized by nationally recognized lab testing like UL, Intertek, or CSA.