Christmas Light Safety Guide

Tis’ the season to start decorating here in New England! It seems like just the other day we were setting the grill up for some 4th of July hot dogs, and now we’re getting ready to put up our Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and of course, the lights! As the centerpiece of any holiday display, lights, both inside and out, can be dangerous to set up. Every year there are hundreds of reported accidents from trees catching fire to exterior falls. Luckily with a some planning, precaution, and the right products from Koopman, you can minimize the risk this holiday season. How? Keep reading to find out!

Essential Christmas Light Safety

  • Holiday-basix-multicolored-lightsIf you have an older set of lights, this part is paramount. Always check the length of your Christmas lights for fraying, cracking, or otherwise exposed wires. If you find any defects, then it’s time to toss that set and grab a new one
    • Since we’re talking about the basics, Koopman has a great light set from Holiday Basix. We stock them in both white and multi-colored sets. The great thing about these lights is that you can string together up to 10 chains without fear of overloading your outlet.
  • If there are any blown bulbs, replace them immediately. Ensure that you have the correct wattage, or your could have a fire hazard on hand (plus more burnt out bulbs)
  • Make sure to tape down and secure extension cords
  • Don’t use tacks, nails, or screws to secure Christmas lights. You might pierce the casing and small cracks that were overlooked can cause a metal hanger to become electrified. Instead, use insulated hooks to hang lights
  • Make sure you have the correct rating. You should only use indoor lights indoors, and outdoor lights (you guessed it) used outdoor. Indoor lights are too weak to survive outside, and outdoor lights burn too hot to be safely used inside

An important thing to note is that older lights can be a danger simply because of their age and older design. Newer lights have fused plugs that are safer and have a much smaller chance of sparking if there is a short at any point in the line. If you’re at all concerned about the lights, go ahead and replace them. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to electricity.

Exterior Light Safety

The biggest safety concern when it comes to stringing lights outside is falling off ladders, but there are you should consider these safety concerns as well. Thankfully no project pitfall is too big to overcome when you shop with Koopman, so let’s take a look at some common concerns for stringing up outdoor lights.

Ladders, Ladders, Ladders
Hanging lights from a ladderLadders are the obvious place to start when it comes to outdoor safety. For low hanging eaves you can get away with hanging from a step ladder, but for larger houses it’s time to pull out the ol’ extension ladder. If your ladder is old or unstable then now is the best time to replace it. Falling from an old ladder is no joke, and can lead to serious injuries – not a great way to celebrate your holiday season. At Koopman, we proudly stand behind Werner ladders and have the sizes you need for the job. Whether you need a 6′ step ladder for low hanging eaves or a 16′ extension ladder for the second story, we trust Werner.

Set up your ladder by placing the base of the ladder against the side of your house and walking it up. When the ladder is flat against the side of your house (or gutter) pull the base away from the house to a distance of about a quarter of the total height of the ladder.

Some more quick tips to keep in mind are:

  • If you’re placing the ladder against a gutter, use a small length of 2×4 ins the gutter to reinforce it.
  • Make sure the angle is neither too steep or too shallow to prevent it tipping or slipping.
  • Ensure the top of the ladder extends well above the eaves.
  • Don’t extend your reach to a dangerous length while on the ladder. It’s better to move the ladder continually than risk falling!
  • If you’re using an aluminum ladder, stay away from electrical wires or electricity. Consider using a fiberglass ladder in place of your aluminum ladder

Outlets and Electricity
Outdoor GFCI plugPlan to run some heavy-duty extension cords from a live 120-volt electrical outlet protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Ideally, you will want the outlet to be switch controlled, or have an automatic timer. Timers are great because you can set the lights to turn on and off at an exact time every day without having to tinker with it all the time. Both the receptacle’s circuit and the timer must be rated to handle the combined amperes of all the light strings. Do not use an indoor timer outside! They are not rated to handle the weather conditions the winter will bring.

Hanging Lights
adams all purpose light clipsWhen physically hanging lights outside, it’s best to use light clips to fasten them to the roof. Regardless of the style of light, you choose to run avoid using conductive materials to hang such as nails or screws (as discussed earlier). We recommend using Adams All Purpose Light Clips, sold at your friendly neighborhood Koopman Lumber store. They’re quick and easy to use, hold on tightly, clip to almost any gutter, shingle, or roof edge, and can hold virtually any style of light. For more information or to purchase online.

Interior Light Safety

Choosing Lights

The type of lights you choose is important. Most people are still running the old c7 and c9 bulbs from Christmases past, and the fact of the matter is these lights are dated. Newer LED lights glow brighter, can have the same casing as the old c7 and c9 bulbs while using a fraction of the energy. In fact, they use about 20% less energy! In the last two years, costs have come down so that they’re now comparable to traditional lights and have tangible energy savings.

Hanging Lights
Lit Christmas Tree Koopman Lumber
Hanging lights inside is a bit less tricky than hanging them outside, but proper care needs to be taken to avoid a fire hazard. There are a few easy things you can do to ensure your home is safe and full of light this season.

  • Ensure lights are rated by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL).
  • Go over the length of the lights to inspect for cracks or fraying. Also, ensure plug connections aren’t loose. If they are, just replace the lights!
  • If you are using a real Christmas Tree, make sure you water your tree your tree is being watered on schedule so that it doesn’t become dry and brittle. As you would expect, the dryer a tree is, the more susceptible it is to catching on fire.
  • When running extension cords, make sure they are safely tucked away and won’t be a trip hazard, but don’t run them underneath carpeting, mats, or area rugs.
  • Don’t hang lights near an open heat source.
  • Replace dead bulbs with the proper wattage bulb. Refer to the packaging and manufacturer guide for this information.

Electrical Limits
There is always the temptation to string together every chain of lights on the tree and plug that into the wall. The fact of the matter is, this string puts an unnecessary and possibly dangerous strain on your wall circuit. There are a few easy ways around this;

  • Plug the lights into a heavy duty surge protector
  • Run several extension chords and string your lights up in 2-3 chains each plugged into different outlets
  • Only string together as many light strings as the packaging recommends. Some outlets can handle heavy loads, but the lights might not be able to.

Wrap Up

Lighted Christmas decorations with electric lights have been a tradition since the early 20th century.  Please make sure that when you celebrate this year that you’re doing so safely. If you have any more questions about Christmas lights or any of the tools used in this blog, then head over to www.koopmanlumber.com and reach out to us. We have the tools and the know-how to ensure you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.

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