Practice Electrical Safety This Holiday Season!

December 6, 2016

The holiday season is a time for joy and celebration for many people. Part of this, of course, is decorating trees and stringing lights inside and outside our homes. Even if you’ve already set up your holiday decorations, now’s a good time to review your work. Here’s some important electrical safety tips to keep in mind as you go full throttle into the holidays:

Lights & Decorations

Holiday lights Before hanging holiday light strings or other electrical decorations, inspect them carefully for cracked insulation, exposed wiring, broken fixtures, or other potential safety hazards. Read and follow all manufacturer instructions and safety warnings.

  • When hanging lights, avoid using risky products like staples, nails, or any product which could potentially damage wiring. Avoid using tape or any product that might ‘give way’ after extended use. Use only hanging clips that are approved by the manufacturer.
  • Be careful to keep lighting products clear of flammable products such as cloth, paper, cord, pine needles, or leaves.
  • Make sure that heat from decorations will not put your holiday tree at fire risk. Take extra care when using spot lights, which may radiate extra heat.
  • Do not plug more light strings together than is approved by the manufacturer.
  • Unplug decorations whenever replacing bulbs or fuses.

Whether indoors or out, it is always safest to plug holiday decorations into a GFI (ground fault interrupter) electrical outlet. These are also known as GFCI outlets, and can be recognized by their red ‘reset’ and black ‘test’ buttons.

Beware of ‘counterfeit’ electrical decorations. Make sure that the products you use carry appropriate safety labeling and accreditations from organizations such as United Laboratories (UL), Intertek, or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

If the price of an electrical decoration or accessory seems too good to be true, doesn’t seem properly packaged, or text on the label contains multiple misspellings or is blurred in places, stop and think twice. Purchase only products made by a reputable brand/manufacturer and handled by a reliable retailer.

Consider purchasing LED holiday lights, which run cooler and use less electricity.

Extension Cords

Inspect all extension cords before plugging them in, making sure the insulation jacket, and the male and female plug ends are in good condition.

Don’t run extension cords under carpets or rugs, through doorways, or allow them to be kinked or pinched when running behind or beneath furniture.

Use grounded (3-prong) extension cords for all applications, and plug your cords into grounded outlets. If your home’s outlets accommodate only 2-prong power cords, we recommend that you contact a licensed electrician for advice and to schedule an inspection of your electrical system. Using a 2-to-3 prong adapter is possible, but this is not the safest long term solution. Beware that in this scenario, your protection against shock is not optimal.

Electrical Load Management

Do not overload electrical outlets. Make sure that the total amperage and wattage draw that you are plugging in does not exceed the rating of the outlet you’re using–with plenty of room to spare! If you are not sure what is safe, contact an electrician for professional advice.

Check the amperage and wattage rating of all extension cords that you use, making sure they can handle the load that they’re carrying. Don’t use multiple extension cords for a single run.

In addition, make sure that you do not overload the amperage rating of the electrical circuit that services the outlets used for the holidays. This relates to your main electrical panel for the house, and the breakers that serve each individual circuit around your home. If you’re unsure, consult a licensed electrician.

Outdoor Decorating

Be sure that all electrical decorations and extension cords you use outdoors are rated for outdoor use.

Plug all outdoor extension cords or decorations into GFI electrical outlets.

Keep outdoor electrical connections above ground and clear of puddles or snow banks, and do not run them across walkways or driveways.

Wrap outdoor extension cord connection points in electrical tape to help protect against moisture.

Use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working outdoors, and check overhead for power lines or phone lines before setting up your ladder.

Holiday tree and lights

Safety Alarms

Make sure that all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors/alarms have fresh batteries, and that you have a sufficient number of safety devices placed throughout your home–not just near the Christmas tree. Consult manufacturer instructions for recommendations, or contact your trusted electrician.

Other Considerations

Make sure that all portable electric space heaters are located safely, and that electrical outlets and circuits they plug into are not overloaded with additional electrical draw.

Consider turning off electrical holiday decorations when you leave home or when you go to bed at night. A good quality appliance timer can help with the bedtime end of things.

Whenever there is the potential for children present, be sure to use plastic outlet caps to prevent accidental contact with live voltage.

Holiday Greetings

Best wishes for a safe and happy Holiday Season!

In the Denver and Boulder, Colorado area, for assistance making sure that your home is electrically safe, contact Save Home Heat’s licensed master electrician to schedule an annual safety inspection. Ask us about energy efficient LED lighting for all around your home, to help reduce your electrical carbon footprint and keep lighting bills as manageable as possible.

Call Save Home Heat Company for all your home electrical needs!