Follow these tips to safely install holiday lighting.
While you’re sorting out your decorating ideas for the winter season, keep these safety tips in mind. Installing outdoor lighting in particular can be hazardous, so consider hiring a professional.
The do’s of holiday lighting
DO carefully check your electrical system. Inspect the outlets and plugs you’ll be using. If there’s sparking or heating up in the socket, call an electrician. If your lights have loose or bared wires, don’t use them.
DO use the correct outlets. Any outdoor lighting (in fact, any outdoor electrical stuff, period) should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter, which will automatically cut the power in the event of a short or a power spike.
DO make sure you use backup when you’re using a ladder. Even if it seems like an easy job, have someone on hand to steady the ladder and generally keep an eye out for your safety. Even seasoned professionals who work on ladders all the time use the buddy system.
DO consider professional help. If you don’t want to invest in the cost of a full holiday decorating service, try calling your handyman, landscaper or window washers, who have lots of experience working outside on ladders and often hang lights in the off-season.
DO consider magnetic hooks. Lights mounted using magnetic clips have a few more limitations, such as only installing on metal, but they’re safer to use and easier to install.
DO invest in LED bulbs. They cost more up front but you’ll save money in the long run, as they last 12 times as long as traditional bulbs.
DO pay special attention to your Christmas tree, which the US Fire Administration says is the item most often ignited during holiday decorating-related fires. Make sure your artificial tree is non flammable, or that bulbs aren’t in position to ignite branches on natural trees.
The don’ts of holiday lighting
DON’T staple or nail through electrical cord or wires. (It’s amazing how many people try this.)
DON’T overdo the power. If your lights continually trip the circuit breaker or GFCI, you probably have too many lights up.
DON’T use extension cords unwisely. Never run them under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways. Make sure you put safety covers on any unused outlet or extension cord plug – you don’t want children messing around with them.
DON’T hire a contractor without verifying their insurance and workers’ comp. Hanging holiday lights, like anything involving a ladder, has a higher risk of injury than many other household jobs, and you don’t want to be on the hook for their medical bills.
DON’T mix up indoor and outdoor lights. Outdoor lights often burn hotter than indoor lights, so don’t hang lights inside if they’re specified for indoors.
DON’T leave your lights on all hours of the night. Add a timer so you don’t have to worry about burning energy at 5 a.m.