Holiday lights bring festivity to the darkness of winter. They coil around our tree to fill its boughs with dots of light, lining our eaves and windows, and bringing us together around the holiday spirit.
Yet, holiday lights and decorations aren’t always fun and games. They can pose a serious hazard if you aren’t careful. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that last year, 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms across America for injuries from holiday lights, Christmas trees, ornaments and other holiday decorations.
Before you go all Clark Griswold this season be sure to check out the 10 simple things you can do to dramatically reduce your risk for injury or fire when it comes to lighting up your holiday.
- Do not interchange indoor and outdoor lights. Many lights today are labeled as “Indoor/Outdoor”, but there are some that are uniquely designed for indoor usage only. They have not been properly sealed to keep out moisture and should never be used outdoors.
- Use LED instead of incandescent. LED lights are more expensive, but they are safer since they produce less heat. They last 25 times longer and use 75% of the electricity. LED holiday lights improve more each year with options for warmer color tones that aren’t so harsh on the eyes and that resemble incandescents.
- Only 3 light strands per outlet. You can usually find information on the product box that indicates how many strands can be connected end-to-end safely. Follow these guidelines the reduce the risk of fire. If you don’t have the boxes anymore, a good rule of thumb is “3 strands per outlet”. Use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker rather than plugging directly into an outlet for added protection.
- Secure outdoor light strings. Winter storms and wind can dislodge your lights and cause them to rest on vulnerable areas. Use light clips or hooks to firmly secure them in place.
- Use extension cords wisely. Keep cords dry and use surge protectors. As with light strands, avoid connecting multiple extension cords end-to-end. Read the instructions on the product packaging for more information.
- Get rid of old lights. Toss those heirloom lights and buy newer, safer ones. Discarded lights are sent to Shijiao, China, the Christmas tree light recycling capital of the world where they take in approximately 20 million pounds a year!
- Don’t leave lights on unattended. The easiest way to do this is to connect lights to a timer for the hours when you will be home, or remote controls that allow you to switch them on and off with a touch of a button.
- Do not use electric lights on metallic trees. This will cause your metal tree to become electrically charged and create a shocking hazard.
- Use candles with caution. What’s Christmas without the warmth and scent of holiday candles? Be sure to keep them out of the reach of children and pets and keep away from flammables such as curtains and gift wrap. Flameless candles are becoming a popular option and some even come with a remote control!
- Keep your tree from becoming a hazard. Christmas trees are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. Artificial trees are made with fire-resistant materials, but many people still love to bring a real tree into the house. When choosing a live tree, be sure to buy it fresh and keep it well-watered. Once it’s dry it is no longer safe and should be removed from your home.
We wish you and yours a happy–and safe–holiday season!