By youngthousands, via Wikimedia Commons
Many Americans — 86 percent, according to a recent survey by the Electrical Safety Foundation International — will decorate their home for a winter holiday, and traditionally Americans spend the weekend after Thanksgiving hanging their stockings by the chimney with care — but what about those electric lights?
With that many households putting up decorations, it’s crucial to have the right precautions in place to prevent holiday-related fires and injuries. According to ESFI, Christmas tree decorations sparked an average of 260 home fires annually from 2004-2008, and holiday lights caused another 150 home fires per year during those same four years. Home Christmas tree fires cause $18.3 million in property damage each year.
Vatterott College–Fairview Heights Electrical Program Director Anthony LaConey offers the following tips to help you keep your holiday from going up in smoke.
• Only purchase lights, electronic decorations and extension cords that are UL-Listed. UL is a safety certification, so these lights have been tested and approved by a recognized safety-testing agency.
• Consider purchasing LED lights. These lights use less energy and run cooler than traditional incandescent lights.
• Keep the indoor lights indoors. Putting indoor-only products outside in the weather can result in electric shock and fire hazards, so check the labels carefully to make sure your lights are safe to use outdoors.
• Inspect for damage. Check all lights, electric decorations and extension cords for signs of damage to wire insulation, plugs and bulbs. If the damage can be easily repaired such as replacing a broken bulb, do not use the item until the repair has been made. If cords and plugs are damaged, discard and replace the decoration.
• Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when decorating outdoors. Metal ladders conduct electricity; using one could result in severe electric shock.
• Do not use staples, nails or tacks to hang electrical cords. These can pierce the protective insulation.
• Don’t overload outlets. No more than three strands of lights should be plugged into each electrical cord or outlet.
• Check lights often. Every so often, check holiday light wires to make sure that they’re not warm to the touch. Overheated wires can spark a fire.
• Always unplug lights before changing bulbs, replacing fuses, or making any other repairs. If you need to replace a bulb in a string of Christmas lights, make sure that the wattage rating of the replacement bulb you’re using matches that of the light strand. Using a bulb with too high a wattage can cause the light string to overheat, creating a fire risk.
• Turn off when not being monitored. Always turn off all Christmas lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house.