13 Safety Tips for Christmas Lights
Christmas lights can present a hazard inside and outside the house if precautions aren't taken. Make sure you know these Christmas light dangers.
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This holiday season, don’t forget about the potential hazards your Christmas tree lights can present in your home. U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires each holiday season from 2014-18 with an average of two deaths, 14 injuries and $10 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Lighting equipment and electrical distribution accounted for 45 percent of home Christmas tree fires. Here are the holiday light dangers you need to know:
Don’t Use Electric Lights on a Metal Tree
Electrical shock and fire are risks with this combination. Decorate these trees with ornaments, garland, or tinsel, but nothing that needs to be plugged in.
Don’t Leave Lights on Overnight or When You’re Away
Whether your tree is live or artificial, unplug the tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed. It’s a small step, but make it a habit each time.
Flame and Trees Don’t Mix
Your tree might look nice near the fireplace, but resist the urge to set it up there. Keep the tree at least 3 feet from fireplaces, as well as lit candles.
Verify Proper Rating
Be skeptical of discount Christmas lights and make sure they have a product safety testing logo, either from Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL Semko).
Use Indoor Lights Indoors and Outdoor Lights Outside
It seems pretty obvious but people sometimes think they’re interchangeable. They’re not — unless they’re marked that way on the package. Lights designed for outdoor use are made to withstand cold and wet conditions. Indoor lights are safety tested so they’re not a fire hazard for trees, but they’re not durable enough for outdoors.
Never Use Staples, Tacks or Nails to Hang Lights
Staples, tacks and nails can pierce Christmas light strands and create a potential electrical shock.
Make sure extension cords are in good shape and don’t overload them. Place them in a area where they won’t be a tripping hazard and they won’t topple your Christmas tree and decorations. In other words, don’t try to emulate Clark Griswold this winter.
It’s dangerous to plug in a strand of Christmas lights with an empty socket, so it’s important to test your Christmas lights with a bulb tester.
Know How Many Strands You Can Connect
The rule of thumb is that you can only string three strands of traditional incandescent lights together safely. Any more than that and we’ve created a potentially dangerous electrical situation. If you’re using LED lights, you can probably relax — as many as 40-50 LED mini-light strands can be strung together safely.
Keep Your Live Tree Hydrated
If you’re celebrating with a live Christmas tree, be sure to keep it watered. In the event of a fire, a dry tree will burn much faster than a well-watered one. Don’t forget to check out these other fire safety tips for the holiday season.
Use GFCI Outlets for Outdoor Lights
A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) reduces the danger of deadly shock from faulty plug-in cords and devices. It will detect dangerous ground faults and immediately turn off the power. While you’re at it, get to know the reason behind the red-tipped Christmas lights.
Don’t Run Lights Through Windows or Doors
It should go without saying but you shouldn’t run lights through doors and windows because the cord can become damaged, creating a dangerous electrical situation.