Christmas Light Tips from an Electrician

It's the most wonderful time of the year! There's the buzz of excitement, searching for the perfect gifts, coordinating with family members, decorating your home, putting up your Christmas tree, and…hanging your Christmas lights. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution and lighting equipment were involved in 44% of Christmas tree fires. While making your home feel as festive as possible, it's also important to make your home as safe as possible too. As you're breaking out your box of Christmas lights, whether for indoor or outdoor use, be sure to follow these Christmas light safety tips to keep joy to the maximum and fires to the minimum.

1. Inspect Your Christmas Lights

Putting up Christmas lights is all fun and games but taking them down is a little bit more frustrating. If you get frustrated like many people do, you may not put them back in the box in the safest or tidiest manner. That means that when you take the lights out the next year, it's time to inspect them! Take a look at your lights and make sure none are broken and that the wiring is intact with no fraying. 

2. Check the Extension Cords 

Whether your extension cords are old or new, it's still important to inspect them for any damage. Check to make sure the plugs are securely attached with no gap between the wire and plug. As you complete your inspection, also check that the insulation on the wiring isn't damaged. 

3. Don't Borrow Bulbs 

If a bulb goes out on a strand of lights, it's tempting to go snag a colorful bulb from another strand that you don't need. This is a great solution if it's the same kind of light strand, but it's not so good if you're pulling an incandescent light bulb and adding it to an LED strand of lights. The voltages may be different and could start a fire.

4. Use Electrical Tape

If you see minor damage to your strand of lights, tape may be a viable option. Though duct tape seems to always be a good option, it isn't the right one for a strand of lights. It's important that you use electrical tape because of its fire-resistant qualities. Duct tape doesn't do well with heat and could cause more problems than it solves. 

5. Invest in Approved Christmas Light Clips

There's something to be said for saving money and makeshift solutions. However, hanging light strands isn't the time for a DIY experiment. We recommend investing in approved light hangers. If you use nails or other similar options, you could unknowingly damage the light wiring and start a fire. 

6. String Wisely 

Many people ask, "How do you connect Christmas lights together?" This is a great question! If you connect too many strands of lights, they could all burn out. However, even more importantly, they could be the source of a fire in your home. Do your research and make sure you're not being overly ambitious with your Christmas lights. When in doubt, start at a new power source. 

7. Install GFCI If Using a Real Tree 

For all of you lovers of real Christmas trees, it may be worth it to have a GFCI installed. This keeps you and your family safe in case water and electricity make contact. A GFCI outlet will shut the power supply down before any damage can be done and is extremely useful when you're frequently watering a live tree with Christmas lights on it. 

8. Turn Off Lights 

Though it's tempting to leave the lights on all of the time so you're always greeted by a lit Christmas tree, we recommend turning off the lights when you leave the house and at night. This not only saves your power bill but also can further prevent the possibility of a fire. 

We hope this helps you keep your family safe this Christmas. Get in the holiday spirit, stay safe, and have a Merry Christmas!

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