Dangers of Holiday Lights | Lee Mechanical

The Hazards of Holiday Lights: How to Avoid Electrical Issues & Keep Your Home Safe

Fatalities caused by fires are 70 percent higher than the average around the holiday season.

More people using candles and fireplaces to stay cozy and get into a festive mood are certainly partially to blame. But those twinkling Christmas lights you use to decorate your home inside and out may be as well.

Enjoying some Christmas cheer and decorations doesn’t have to mean putting your family at risk. If you’re getting ready to start decorating with holiday lights for the season, keep reading. We’re bringing you the tips you need to keep your family, yourself, and your home safe.

Inspect Your Lights

Many families decorate their homes inside and out with strands of Christmas lights. But all of those bright little lights could wind up becoming a fire risk.

Before you put up your lights this year, take some time to inspect each strand. Start by taking a look at the strand itself. Look for any frays or tears. If you find these, it’s best to toss out the strand and replace it with a new one.

Check to see if there are any individual bulbs that are missing. An empty socket can actually be dangerous, so replace any lights that are missing or burned out.

Don’t forget to inspect any extension cords that you plan to use. Never, ever overload your extension cord, and make sure that you’re using cords that are rated for outdoor use if you’re using them outdoors.

The same goes for your Christmas lights themselves. Strands of lights that are rated for indoor use only could pose a fire risk if used outdoors.

Hang Lights The Right Way

How you hang your lights could be just as dangerous as using an old or frayed strand of lights.

Using nails, staples, or tacks to hang your lights may seem convenient. But the reality is that if one of those objects pierces the electrical cord, it could pose a shock risk.

Instead, make sure to use plastic hooks designed for hanging your lights, both indoors and out.

If you don’t have an outlet conveniently placed outdoors, it might be tempting to run an extension cord through the bottom of a window or door. However, this could lead to a damaged cord, which could become a dangerous electrical threat.

Check to see how many strands the manufacturer recommends connecting to one another. Too many connected may overload them and cause the lights to overheat.

Keep Your Tree Watered and Away From Candles

The focal point of many homes’ holiday decor could actually be the greatest risk of a fatal fire.

On average, fire departments in the U.S. respond to around 160 home fires that started with a Christmas tree.

Christmas trees, including both real and artificial trees, pose a number of fire dangers. Real trees that aren’t watered properly turn into kindling that can ignite with the slightest spark or heat source.

Even when they are watered properly, cut Christmas trees typically last just 5 weeks before they begin to dry out. With many families choosing to put up their holiday decorations earlier than ever before in 2020, many trees may become a threat of fire long before Christmas morning arrives this year.

Artificial trees are also a fire danger. In around a quarter of all fires that started with a Christmas tree, a candle placed too close to the tree is to blame.

Enjoying a Christmas Tree Safely

It is possible to safely enjoy a Christmas tree in your home.

If you want a real tree, purchase it within 5 weeks of the holiday, and dispose of it properly immediately after. When you buy your tree, make sure that the farm or seller cuts the trunk straight across the bottom before you take it home.

After trees are cut, the resin can dry along the cut. This will keep the tree from absorbing water as it should. A fresh cut will help your tree absorb the water that it needs.

If you aren’t putting your tree up right away, place it in a bucket of water and store it in your garage, out of the elements. Then, when you’re ready to move it inside, cut another inch off the trunk to maximize the water that gets in.

Check the water under your tree every day. As a general rule, you’ll need at least one quart of water for every one inch of diameter in your trunk.

On both artificial and real trees, inspect your lights before placing them on the tree. Check for frayed wires and replace any burnt-out bulbs to prevent a spark. Turn off your Christmas lights when you go to bed or when you’re leaving home.

Never place candles near a real or artificial Christmas tree. You should also keep your tree away from radiators, heaters, stoves, and other heat sources.

Get Your Home Checked By the Pros

Your home’s wiring could also pose a fire hazard this holiday season. While you may not have had previous problems with your home’s electricity, adding holiday decor means adding a lot of new lights, inflatables, and more to your electrical system. This may cause electrical issues to suddenly occur.

Depending on the age of your home and how many appliances you have, you should have your home’s wiring inspected by a professional every 3 to 5 years. If you live in an older home, or haven’t had your wiring inspected in a long time, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit this holiday season.

Besides having your wiring inspected, you should also do a little prep around the rest of your home to get it ready for the cold winter season.

Change your furnace filters, and clear away clutter around your furnace, including anything flammable to prevent a fire. Move furniture and other items that may be sitting too close to registers and air vents, preventing warm air from flowing into your home.

Take Your Lights Down After the Holidays

Leaving your Christmas decorations up well into January may seem like a great way to keep the holiday cheer going. Or with the busyness of the holidays, you might struggle to find time to get them packed back away until next year.

However, the longer you leave your decorations up, the more of a hazard they become.

You already know that after 5 weeks, your tree may begin to dry out. A dry tree is quick kindling when it connects with a flame or heat source.

But what you may not realize is that leaving outdoor decorations up after Christmas is a threat as well.

The longer strands of lights stay up the more damage that may occur due to wind, snow, and other extreme weather. Even if a fire or electrical shock doesn’t come as a result, you’ll be shortening the life of your decorations.

Take down strands of lights and dispose of your tree within a week or two of the holidays. If you want to keep the cheer going into the new year, you can leave up other decorations instead.

Rethink How You Store Your Decorations

Just as leaving your holiday lights up into January or February puts your lights at risk of damage, so too does storing them poorly the rest of the year.

Wrapping your lights too tightly can cause the cords to fray. Rodents may also chew your strands. This damage will pose an electrical shock risk when you plug them in the following year.

If you don’t notice the damage right away and hang your lights, the damaged strands could also lead to a fire when the damaged strands come into contact with flammable materials inside or outside of your home.

Store your lights in sealed plastic containers. If you can’t store your boxes of holiday decorations indoors, make sure to use traps and repellents to keep critters out of them.

Keeping Your House Safe While Still Enjoying Your Holiday Lights This Year

Keeping your home safe doesn’t have to mean skipping out on holiday lights and other decor this Christmas.

Instead, put these tips to work to check your holiday decorations for potential threats, rethink how you decorate, and make sure that your home’s electrical system is ready for the added boost this season.

To help your family stay safe and save some money this holiday season, we are now offering payment plans and waiving trip charges. Contact the Lee team today to schedule your free estimate for all of your heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical needs.