Spending time with family is the most important part of Christmas, and making our homes inviting and cheerful with holiday lights, great-smelling candles and festive decorations is often a treasured household tradition. In the hustle and bustle of holiday entertaining, it can be easy to get so distracted with family activities that we forget how hazardous some of our decorations can be if we don’t exercise proper precautions.
Follow these 10 Christmas light safety tips to ensure that your Christmas décor is merry, bright and, most importantly of all, safe for the family and friends you cherish.
1. Never leave your lights on unattended
Whether you’re dashing out for a carton of eggnog or going to sleep for the night, turn your Christmas lights off any time you will not be nearby to monitor. While this may seem like a pain, there are a variety of products that make it easy, like Christmas light timers and remote controls that turn your indoor and outdoor lights off with the touch of a button. If you’re prone to forgetting, try an automated timer for outdoor lighting that illuminates your decorations when it gets dark outside and turns them off at sunrise.
2. Consider using LED lights instead of incandescent lights
LED lights, while a bit more expensive, are a much safer option for indoor and outdoor lighting. Because they produce very little heat, they are perfect for holiday decorations. They also last up to 25 times longer and use 75 percent less electricity.
3. Be mindful of where you place candles
There’s nothing like warm candlelight flickering away on a cozy Christmas night. However, candles aren’t the safest option — especially if you have kids or pets who are prone to accidentally knocking things over. Place lit candles above the reach of wandering hands and tails, and well out of the way of flammable materials like curtains or wrapping paper. To prevent possible burns and fires, try flameless candles instead.
4. Indoor and outdoor lights are not interchangeable
Though indoor lights can be cheaper, don’t use them as a substitute for outdoor lights. Indoor lights aren’t as sealed against moisture as their outdoor counterparts, making them unsafe for wet winter weather. If you’re not sure which type of lights you have, play it safe and check the label or toss them and buy new ones.
5. Only use three light strands per outlet
The number of light strings you can connect together in sequence depends on both the strands’ wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the house circuit you plug them into. You may need to do a bit of math to figure out what’s safe. If you’re worried about calculating that number incorrectly, a good rule of thumb is to keep each outlet to three strands of lights or fewer. Also consider using a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet for added protection.
6. Get rid of old lights
It’s nice to pass down holiday heirlooms, but old light strands from years past can be very dangerous. Modern lights are much safer, as they have fused plugs to prevent sparks in the event of a short circuit.
7. Securely fasten all outdoor light strings
Winter storms can easily catch and blow loose outdoor Christmas light strands, causing potential electrical hazards. Fasten your lighted decorations to firm objects like trees or walls to keep your lights secure and where they belong. Also fasten indoor lights out of reach of pets and small children to avoid chewing mishaps that could result in accidental electrocution.
8. Avoid using electric lights on metallic trees
Shiny aluminum and tinsel Christmas trees can bring real sparkle to your holiday décor, but if you opt for a metallic tree, avoid using electric lights or decorations. The tree could easily become charged with electricity, giving a real “shock” to anyone who touches it.
9. Be smart when using extension cords
Outdoor lights can pose a safety risk when extension cords are low enough to become surrounded by pools of rain or melted snow. Keep the cords dry, and make sure to use surge protectors to minimize damage in case of voltage fluctuation.
10. Keep your Christmas tree from becoming a fire hazard
Sadly, Christmas Trees are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. While there are definitely benefits to a real tree, artificial trees are the safer choice. Most artificial trees are made with fire-resistant materials, making them fairly safe to light and decorate. If you opt for a real tree, make sure it’s fresh when you buy it and that you keep it well watered. Once your tree dries out, it is no longer safe to keep in your home and should be removed immediately.
Whether you go big or small with your Christmas decorations this season, protecting your home and family should be your number one priority. Follow these 10 Christmas light safety tips to have a happy, secure holiday.
Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.