It’s that time of year again: time for holiday decorating. Whether you plan on just a few lights around your home or an elaborate display that will rival the sun for light output, you’ll be using electricity to do so. Outdoor decorating with electricity has become safer and more dependable over the years, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to be lazy or careless about it. Unsafe decorations or faulty installations, unfortunately, cause thousands of fires and millions of dollars in damage every year, and you more than likely want to avoid becoming part of this statistic.
Fortunately, safe and simple holiday decorating doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, taking a little bit of extra time or putting in a small amount of extra effort can go a long way toward making holiday decorating easy, safe, and repeatable in future years as well. Here are four great electrical tips for easy holiday decorating.
Never Staple Lights to Your Home
Many people use a trusty staple gun to attach lights to the eaves of their roof and to other surfaces of their homes. Staples are easy to install, inexpensive, and remarkably effective at staying in place. They’re also prone to piercing the shielding around electrical wires and potentially causing a short that could spark a fire. Staples often have tiny burrs on their edges, and those burrs are sharp enough to penetrate through the soft plastic shielding around the wires. All it takes is the smallest contact and hundreds of volts could surge through that staple. This causes the staple to heat up, melt, and potentially spark a fire on your roof or other surface of your home’s exterior.
Our recommendation: invest in some stainless steel hooks and install them in areas where you want to hang holiday lights. Hanging the hooks may take a little bit more time and effort in your first year, but you can leave them in place all year round to make decorating even easier the following year. Hooks simply hold light wires in place, making them far safer and more dependable as a way of putting up holiday decorations.
Use an Automatic Timer
Unfortunately, one of the most common reasons for electrical fires from holiday lights or decorations is overuse or overheating. As more and more companies seek to build cheaper components, the quality of parts used goes downhill. This means they don’t last as long and after a while they fail and give out, potentially sparking a fire in the process.
However, you can limit the amount of time that your decorations are on and running with a simple automatic timer. Available at most big box stores or home improvement warehouses, these devices can be programmed to turn on and off at specific times each day, allowing you to enjoy your lights during hours when the world is awake and then shut them off automatically when everyone goes to sleep. No more worrying about whether or not you shut the lights off or decorations potentially sparking a fire from overuse; you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing this is done for you automatically.
Always Use Outdoor Extension Cords
Not all extension cords are created equal. Your standard extension cord that you can buy for just a few dollars is probably made from cheap, inexpensive plastic and not really designed to last. While these are fine for low-demand uses, such as a cell phone charger or laptop computer, they simply aren’t built to withstand outdoor use. The cheaper materials cannot withstand the elements and before long you’ll be left with a cord that’s ruptured, broken, cracked, or shorted out.
Outdoor cords feature thicker insulation that’s designed to withstand exposure to the elements, including cold temperatures, sunlight, moisture, and everything in between. These cords may cost more, but are far, far safer to use in outdoor applications. It may be a greater investment, but you’ll be thankful you made it when your winter decorations are dependable and safe to use compared to those installed using an indoor-rated cord.
Never Plug into an Unprotected Outlet
Holiday lights will need to draw their energy from somewhere, so you’re going to need an outlet to plug into. Sometimes this outlet is outside, but in others you may have to feed a wire through a window or door. Wherever you plug your lights in, make sure that the outlet is protected by a GFCI. Ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, are safety devices built into outlets designed for use where water may be present. When these outlets sense too much current being drawn (which is what happens in a short), the device trips and shuts off power to that outlet, stopping the flow and protecting you and your home. Because your holiday lights will be used outdoors, every strand should be plugged into a GFCI-equipped outlet for optimal safety and security.
Got an electrical problem that needs fixing this holiday season? Call All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical at (909) 253-0664 and we’ll get it fixed for you!