It’s the holiday season and for many of us, that means it’s time to think about installing your Christmas decorations.
Whether your decorations are the most spectacular on the block (think Clark Griswold’s exterior house decorations in the 1989 film “Christmas Vacation”) or you choose to keep things a little more subdued by confining decorations to a Christmas tree, know that about 86% of Americans participate in displaying these festive decorations each year. For most of us, that includes using electrical Christmas lighting inside the house, if not also outside the house. That often means using one, if not several, extension cords.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), these decorations can pose serious electrical and fire hazards. The ESFI is an organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.
At Odds & Ends Home Improvement, we also enjoy displaying holiday splendor. But, we’d like to remind our customers that all those extra electrical decorations can increase the risk of fire and electrical injury. So, play it safe this holiday season by following these basic tips for installing your Christmas decorations:
For those who enjoy a live tree, be sure you buy one that’s fresh. You can usually tell if the tree is fresh by simply tapping the base of the trunk onto the ground a couple times and checking how many needles fall off. As you might expect, a fresh tree is less of a fire hazard than a dry one. Cut 1-2 inches from the base before placing the tree in the stand and filling with water. Then, check the water level daily to keep it full.
For artificial tree fans, make sure your tree is labeled “fire resistant.” If the tree has metallic leaves, avoid using electrical ornaments or lights. Regardless of the type, all trees should be placed at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces or space heaters.
While flickering candles are lovely to watch, they are responsible for almost half of all home fires related to decorations. Use battery-operated candles in place of traditional candles. Amazingly, the new ones look almost identical to the “real thing.” An added plus is that they come with timers!
It’s ok to use extension cords, but be sure to select a cord that is long enough to meet your needs. You should not be connecting multiple cords just to get the length you need. Be sure the cord is labeled as certified by a nationally recognized independent testing lab such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA). While you may be concerned about hiding the cord from view, avoid placing the extension cord under carpets, rugs, or furniture. And, never nail or staple the cord to a wall or baseboard.
Use the Proper Lights for Decorations
We have come a long way in the last 10 years in improved safety features of decorative lighting. And that’s a good thing since an estimated 160 home fires occur each year caused by Christmas lighting. Unlike incandescent bulbs which generate most of their energy in heat, LEDs are cool to the touch—indicating greater energy-efficiency. When buying lights, make them LED lights, and switch out existing old incandescent lighting for LEDs. Turn off all indoor and outdoor holiday lighting before leaving the house or going to bed.
An important rule to follow here is making sure all outdoor cords and decorations are marked for outdoor use. Outdoor lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Inspect all lights, decorations, and extension cords for damage before using. Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when decorating (metal ladders conduct electricity). Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations that can cause overheating and a fire. Turn off decorations before leaving the house or going to sleep.
Odds & Ends Home improvement wants all our customers to enjoy the holiday season by displaying decorations in a safe way. And, we can help with installing Christmas decorations or taking down those decorations after the holiday is over. Just give us a call for help!