Even the happiest of times can turn to tragedy if everyone’s not careful. This winter, practice some common-sense electrical safety. You could prevent accidents, fires and injuries—and save the season for everyone who gathers in your home for the holidays. Here are 10 electrical safety tips:
Buy lights designed for outdoor use. The lights you use to safely decorate your indoor tree are not safe to use outside, where it’s cold, damp, windy and exposed. Luckily, it’s easy to find lights that are designed specifically for the outdoors.
Choose a fire-resistant tree. On an artificial tree, look for label that guarantees it is “fire retardant” so it will resist burning and will be easy to snuff out if it does catch on fire. If you’re a fan of live holiday trees, choose one that is fresh and water it every day.
Keep your tree away from heat. Not only will the heat dry out a live tree’s needles, it can catch a real or artificial tree on fire. Keep trees and other combustible decorations at least three feet away from a heat source, like a radiator or portable electric heater.
Be picky about hooks. Never staple, screw, nail or tack your outdoor lights to your roof, gutter, railings or doors, as you could cut right through the wires on the light strands. Instead, buy insulated hooks. You’ll greatly reduce the risk of a fire, and they won’t damage your roof.
Examine the lights. Whether you just bought a new set or you’re reusing last year’s indoor or outdoor lights, inspect them to make sure they all light up and their wires aren’t damaged.
Insist on “certified.” The UL label on Christmas lights, replacement bulbs and decorations means the products have passed tests that prove they are fire- and shock-resistant.
Use extension cords sparingly. Extension cords extend the reach of your light strands. But if you hide them under rug, they’ll get trampled on—and can overheat and catch that rug on fire.
Follow instructions. Manufacturers of incandescent holiday lights usually recommend that you string no more than three sets together before plugging them in. More than that creates a fire hazard. If you’re using energy-efficient LEDs, however, you can safely link up to 25 strands.
Use battery-operated candles. Almost half of decoration-related fires are started by candles with real flames, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Install smoke alarms. A beeping smoke alarm could be your first clue that you need to get everyone out of the house. Change your alarm’s batteries before your home fills with company.