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Christmas Lights Safety

Contributed by TIm Coddington, Home Inspector

Holiday lights make the season merry and bright, but before you grab your ladder and boxes of lights, review this list of safety tips:

Keep the holiday bright and safe
Learn tips on how to be safer with Christmas Lights!

Inspect lights before hanging Return or throw away any holiday lighting sets with cracked or broken sockets, loose connections, or frayed or bare wires. Replace burned-out bulbs promptly with bulbs of the same wattage. Hanging lights with damaged electrical wiring can lead to a potential flammable short. Use ladders safely Always use the buddy system and have someone stabilize the bottom of the ladder. Make sure your ladder is in good repair, and place your ladder carefully avoiding slippery surfaces. Set the ladder at an angle - use the 4-to-1 rule for extension ladders- for every 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper contact (such as well or roof) move the base of the ladder out one foot. Always ascend or descend while facing the ladder and use 3 points of control at all times when climbing the ladder. Never overreach. Always move the ladder to a new spot instead of reaching farther down your gutters to avoid potential falls. Indoor and outdoor lights are not interchangeable Make sure you are using the correct type of light for your use. Only use lights rated for outdoor use outdoors and lights labeled for indoor use indoors. Check for the UL seal to make sure the lights meet the national industry standards. All outdoor lights should be plugged into a GFCI. Use the right extension cord Always use an extension cord that is rated for outdoor use outdoors. Indoor-use extension cords are not meant to be in cold or wet environments. Make sure the junction where your light cord and extension cord meet stays out of wet conditions, Secure extension cords to the ground on either side of walkways to prevent tripping hazards. Don't run cords through doors or windows as the cord could become pinched which can lead to a nasty shock. Don't overload your outlet Each standard circuit breaker can handle about 15 amps of current. Light strings only draw a few milliamps individually. However, when you add too many strings together, it is easy to overdraw power. This has the potential to cause some serious damage to your electrical wiring. Never use staples, tacks, or nails Just because Clark Griswold did it on Christmas Vacation doesn’t mean it works on your home. It’s fairly common for a string of holiday lights to have exposed electrical wiring in some areas. Unfortunately, if you use metal fasteners like staples, tacks, or nails, it creates a circuit and generates heat that could set your home on fire. Additionally, if metal components come in contact with a live string of holiday lighting and then the current touches the metal components of your home, such as your gutters or downspouts, it creates an electrocution hazard. Always use insulated holders or plastic roof clips for hanging outside lights. Never leave your lights unattended Turn your Christmas lights off any time you will not be nearby to monitor. While this may seem like a hassle, there are a variety of products that make it easy, like Christmas light timers. Don't make your lights a year-long attraction Don't leave lights up for too long. Many lights aren't meant for long-term use. Be sure to check your box for information on just how long you can safely leave your lights up.


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