Many people look forward to decorating for Christmas and enjoying the beautiful lights set out by their neighbors but outdoor lights can be a safety hazard if they are hung incorrectly. Running through a basic Outdoor Christmas Lights safety checklist can help you to avoid an unnecessary injury.
Top Safety Tips for Outdoor Christmas Lights
When shopping for Christmas lights:
- Choose modern Christmas lights with fused plugs; they prevent sparks in case of a short circuit.
- Choose LED lights. They are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, making them much more durable. They are also cool to the touch which shows higher energy-efficiency compared to incandescent bulbs.
- Purchase lights that have been rated by a testing laboratory. You can see a list of federally recognized labs on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s website.
- Understand that not all lights are rated for outdoor use. Indoor lights usually have thinner insulation, which can become cracked and damaged when exposed to outside elements. Make sure to purchase Christmas lights rated for outdoor use.
Before hanging your Christmas lights:
- When pulling new Christmas lights out of the box or out of storage from a previous year, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends, or loose connections before using them.
- If bulbs have burned out replace them right away (with the correct wattage bulbs).
If you live in a wet climate, keep these water tips in mind:
- Water and debris can get into outdoor sockets, so plug all outdoor lights into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shorts and shocks.
- Drape wires across bushes (instead of along the ground) to keep them out of puddles. If you must run a wire or extension cord along the ground, elevate the plugs and connectors with a brick to keep snow, water, and debris out of the connections.
- Always use proper wiring, like waterproof outdoor extension cords.
- Pro safety Tip: If your lights go out in bad weather, don’t touch the cords until they are totally dry as you can get an electrical shock from water transfer.
General tips for extension cords and string lights:
- Do a heat test of your cords every few days, as they can occasionally overheat. If the cord is hot, unplug it.
- Don’t use tacks, nails, or screws to hang lights, as they can pierce the cable and become electrified. Choose insulated hooks instead.
- Tape down any ground-level extensions cords to prevent a trip and fall accident.
- Unplug Christmas lights before going to bed and when you leave the house.
When the season is over, be sure to store your Christmas lights in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water and rodent damage.
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