The festive glow of holiday lights are one of the best parts about the season. But in our rush to get the lights hung before the snow falls, it's important to remember that holiday lights do come with a few inherent risks.
Below are some tips to help keep you and your home safe, while getting the most from you holiday lights this season.
Carefully Inspect Your Lights Before Use
Whether your lights are brand new or safely stored away from previous seasons, a thorough inspection before you begin is key. Start with a trial run before you hang anything - plugging in each strand and decoration, checking that that any burned out bulbs are replaced, and giving them a thorough look-over to ensure all wires and cords are in good repair.
If you notice any frayed or exposed wiring, this is a sure sign it's time to replace the strand. If you purchase any new holiday lights, make sure they are properly graded for where you will be using them - Outdoor lights for outdoor use and indoor lights for inside. This same rule applies to extension cords and power bars - all should be labeled accordingly on the package or product themselves. And if ever you are unsure, ask.
Know Your Limits
Holiday lights can be a big drain on our electrical system. As a general rule, most circuits can handle 3 strands of lights plugged in end-to-end. Keep in mind that most circuits in our homes are shared with another room, so be sure to account for things like appliances and other lighting requirements whenever you are adding in something new.
LED is King
Gone are the days of hot burning, electricity guzzling incandescent holiday lights. If you are a late adapter or are looking to expand the lighting options you currently have, LED lights are worth the investment. Not only do they use significantly less wattage than old-school holiday strands (lower electricity bills are a no brainier,) LED lights also remain cool to the touch, even after being on for hours, providing a safer choice for your family and home.
Invest in a Timer
It is always wise to be in the habit of turning off holiday lights when you leave the house or before going to bed. If you tend to forget or just want to streamline your system, a lighting timer is an easy solution to help save money and reduce the risk of a potentially dangerous electrical issue. Available in both indoor and outdoor varieties, your local hardware or home supply store should have everything you need.
When to Call an Electrician
If you have lofty plans to turn your home into a Griswold-style holiday display or are unsure about your holiday lighting capacity, it's worth calling a professional before you begin. Simple solutions like installing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) or checking you aren't overloading your electrical system before you plug in are all things a licensed electrician can help with.
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