How to Deck the Halls, Safely

Close-up of a Christmas tree with lights (slightly unfocused) and decorations

With the holiday season approaching, this might be a good time to get word out to your customers about the importance of electrical safety, especially as it applies to indoor and outdoor holiday lighting. Here, we look at important safety tips for indoor lighting, which you can pass on to your customers in person or post on your website. It might also be worth mentioning to customers that you are visiting in the next few weeks for other types of work, so your company is available to ensure their holiday lighting is set up properly when they get around to installing it.

According to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Quincy, Mass., U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires with Christmas trees per year between 2013 and 2017, which is the NFPA’s latest data. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage annually. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of these home Christmas tree fires.

First and foremost, it is important to use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for all indoor and outdoor holiday season lighting.

For indoor holiday season lighting, the NPFA also recommends these tips:

  • Always purchase lights and other electrical decorations from reputable sellers.
  • Use lights that have been approved for safe use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Never connect more than three strings of incandescent lights together.
  • Instead of incandescent lights, consider using LED lights, which use less energy and run cooler.
  • Before you start decorating, identify how many outlets are available and their location, and plan your displays accordingly.
  • Carefully inspect each strand of lights and other electrical decorations. Discard items with signs of damage, such as cracked or damaged sockets, broken bulbs, loose or bare wires and loose connections, which can cause a serious electrical shock or start a fire.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions for all electrical decorations.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices, as this can cause them to overheat and start a fire.
  • Make sure that electrical cords are not pinched in doors or windows or under heavy furniture, as this could cause damage to the cord’s insulation.
  • Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.
  • Keep Christmas trees well-watered, as dry trees can easily catch fire if lights or other electrical decorations spark.
  • Turn off all indoor lights and other electrical decorations before leaving the house or going to sleep.

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