The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means time is ticking to get your holiday lights up and ready to go before winter weather gets in the way. Approximately 86% of Americans decorate their homes for the holidays, and 60% of people use at least one long extension cord to do so. While Christmas lights can add to the holiday cheer and festivities, they come with risk factors and the potential for injuries. We've put together the following safety tips to keep in mind while decorating your home this holiday season.
Prior to even getting on your ladder, it’s not a bad idea to check all of the bulbs to make sure that they are working! Always unplug your lights before changing burnt-out bulbs to prevent a safety hazard. An easy way to check before you begin putting the lights up is to plug them in inside your home. If you are installing outdoor lighting, use a sturdy ladder and place your lights on your roof using insulated holders. Do not use nails or tacks.
Use of proper outlets is very important when decorating. Make sure your power comes from a ground fault circuit interrupter or (GFCI outlet.) If there is an overcurrent in the circuit this type of outlet will shut down any power being distributed to that circuit. Check to make sure that your home has a GFCI outlet outdoors, and if you don’t, have an electrician come to your home to install one before you put up your outdoor lights. It’s even possible to buy portable GFCI outlets for under $20.
Quick tips for extension cord use:
- Keep your extension cord’s connection above the ground, as well as snow and water.
- If possible avoid putting your extension cord in areas of high traffic.
- Make sure you tape cords across any walk ways.
- Use the correct length of the extension cord that is necessary to travel to all of your lights.
- Make sure your extension cord doesn’t pile up and turn into a walking hazard.
If you need to purchase all new outdoor lights, or are purchasing outdoor lights for the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Only purchases lights (and other decorations that require electricity) that are UL listed.
- Make sure your outdoor decorations are rated for outdoor use before purchasing.
- If you are unsure whether or not a product is rated for indoor or outdoor use, check on the product’s packaging for the UL information. A red UL is meant for both indoor and outdoor use and a green UL is strictly indoor only.
- Before putting up lights (and other decorations that use electricity) inspect the extension cords you will be using for any damage to wire insulation, bulbs, and plugs.
- If you have to replace light bulbs make sure that your replacement bulbs have an equivalent wattage to the old bulb.
- Using a bulb with a wattage that is too high can be dangerous because it could potentially cause a fire, and or your strand of lights to overheat.
C7 and C9 Bulbs: What's the difference?
- If you are going for a traditional look for your outdoor cone shaped Christmas lights use a C7 or C9.
- C7 and C9’s can be found at almost any home improvement store.
- The difference between the two is the size of the actual bulb as well as the wattage.
- The C9 bulb is bigger and is easier to see from a further distance.
- Both C7 and C9 bulbs are available in clear color bulbs and are great to use for your roof as well as your tree.
- Bulbs can be purchased in 25 bulb strands all the way up to 100 bulb strands.
- For the 25 bulb strands they can be chained or connected together with three strands total while for 100 bulb strands must be connected together separately.
- C7 and C9 strands use a screw in base for the bulbs which allows for easy replacements to be made.
- Because the strands are connected if one bulb fails it will only affect that bulb.
- Also buying light strands that have inner fuses can be a good idea because it prevents excess current on the strands.
- Using miniature bulbs outdoors is another option.
- Miniature bulbs cost less and use less electricity than normal sized bulbs.
- Miniature bulb strands come in strands of 50-100 bulbs.
- But this means that if one bulb or socket fails it can cause a whole section of bulbs to fail which is the downside.
- Miniature bulbs can be used for trees and or the perimeter of your home.
- But miniature bulbs have shunts inside of them.
- Shunts will keep your strand of bulbs lit even if one bulb filament burns out then it will not affect the rest of your strand of miniature bulbs.
- But in turn shunts increase the voltage being used which will make the lifetime of your miniature bulbs decrease more quickly than regular sized bulbs.
- For shrubs and bushes consider using net lighting. Net lighting is interconnected LED lights that basically sit over your bushes and shrubs similar to a blanket. This saves you the hassle of maneuvering in and out of your shrubs, which can save time as well!
If you want your light display to be more personal/interesting by adding typical holiday characters animated lights are the way to go. Animated lights use wire frames that can depict reindeers, Santa etc. by using mini lights surrounded is different color variations and patterns. It is highly suggested to put your lights on a timer so they turn on and off by themselves and you won’t have to deal with the hassle of remembering to turn them on or off which can be tedious.
No matter how you choose to decorate this season, make sure you keep in mind SAFETY FIRST. If you follow these tips you should be able to have a happy, bright, and peaceful holiday season. Happy Holidays from your friends at 123 Exteriors!