It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
While it’s the most wonderful time of the year, we want to keep it safe. How do we do that?
With everything we do in December, we know there’s plenty of bright things to look forward to, including all of the lights. Inside and outside, the beautiful decorations can be captivating and they remind us of the beauty of the holiday spirit. While it all seems so simple, we want to be sure you and your family are safe in every way possible. Safety this year may look like just being socially distant and wearing our masks and we don’t want to forget that, but we don’t want to forget to include electrical safety. This year, the lights and decorations are going to be the biggest way for us to get into the holiday spirit, so more lights should call for being extra careful.
There’s plenty to look for in light safety from where you’re plugging them in, where and how you are hanging them to the maintenance of your lights and Christmas tree. That’s why our team at Transformation Electric wants to be sure to help you cover all of your bases.
To start, there are a couple of things you should look for prior to hanging up your lights. You always want to check and see if your lights have any bare spots on the strands. These spots can come from hanging your lights over your gutters which can damage the insolation on the strand. This could be a big safety hazard, especially with winter weather!
Taking the time to be sure each step of your process is safe may be a tedious process, but it can help keep you and your home safe. Not only is checking your strands first a good idea but also be sure that you are updating your lights. Many people tend to keep their lights for years, but the old string lights have incandescent filaments. These lights can be dangerous because they generate a lot of heat, which generates more electricity and can create a fire hazard. If it’s been a while since you purchased new lights, we would recommend getting new LED lights. Especially if you are someone who leaves your lights on all the time! The longer you leave them on, the shorter the life of your lights will be. Timers can be a good tool to help you with this, but be sure to still replace your lights every so often.
Got any tips for hanging my lights?
While it seems like it would be another tedious task, take the time to organize your installation so that the cord ends match up in the direction you’re hanging your lights. You also should have the right clips for hanging your lights outdoors, which are available in all big box stores. These clips mount to shingles or gutters and are plastic so they don’t conduct electricity. Utilizing plastic clips is going to be beneficial in case there may be damage to the strands. The plastic won’t conduct electricity which can damage your electrical system and potentially be a fire hazard.
Another thing to be cognizant of is how many lights you are stringing together. If the outlets you are using service another part of the house you can lose lighting or partial power in parts of your home. While the lights may look great, you don’t want to overload your home’s wiring, otherwise, you might not have light!
Lastly, make sure whatever you’re plugging in on the outside of your house is ground fault protected. What you need to look for is the outlets that have the test and reset buttons and you can test it yourself to make sure they are working properly. You might also find ground fault breakers in your panel that have that test and reset buttons too. This is going to help protect people with the shock of the cords being outside. People will put adaptors in the light fixtures on the outside of the house and those are not ground fault protectors, like outlets on light posts. Confirming you have that protection can go a long way.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if there’s a bad place to hang your lights… there’s no good or bad place to hang them as long as you are comfortable with the height they’re being hung at!
Is there such a thing as too many lights?
Not necessarily, but you should be paying attention to how much you are hanging and where you are plugging them into. It all goes by wattage. At the end of each strand of lights, it should tell you how many watts the string of lights is or how many watts of consumption the strand uses. It is signified with a ‘W’ at the end of the number. Generally in a home, you are plugging into a 15 amp circuit so that gives you up to 1,800 watts total on that circuit. You should calculate what you are using on the circuit currently like with your TV, lights, etc., and add your Christmas lights to that. While it seems very technical it is best to look at it this way and be safe.
What are some important tips when actually plugging my lights in?
We said it before and we’ll say it again, always inspect the strands on the outside of the house. Anything exposed to the weather typically is an issue once the snow and rain hit. This can cause nuisance tripping and every year we get calls that someone’s GFI breaker is tripping. It is common in Pittsburgh that your outdoor outlets are GFI protected by the powder room outlet on the first floor and is also connected to all the bathroom outlets. So many times people will see multiple problems in their house, but won’t correlate it to their Christmas lights because they don’t realize that it’s from the domino effect of their exposed strands.
One very important thing to do after you check your strands is to avoid plugging them in the outlets that are in the gutters because they collect water. They now sell a weatherproof cord connector that you can plug your strand into your extension cord or into one another string of lights. It simply snaps over the cord and has a rubber gasket on either end to keep the water out. DO NOT wrap your cords in cellophane or plastic baggies as a DIY version of these connectors. When the strands get warm as they stay on, condensation collects in the baggie or cellophane and it creates more of a problem than just leaving it open. These connectors can be a good way to ensure your cords are safe while doing them properly. A win-win of light protection.
How about inside? Should I do anything about my tree?
There are pros and cons to every tree when it comes to safety. Real trees may have a bit more risk, but they really help you smell the holiday spirit in the air! One thing you have to do is watch your live trees and make sure you water it so it doesn’t catch on fire. The dryer it is, the more heat it will conduct with the lights and slowly become more of a fire hazard. And these trees burn fast! It just takes a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it when it comes to the season.
As for fake trees, you want to check for any pinched wires because this can cause an electrical conduction which can begin to melt your tree. This is something to look out for especially if your tree comes with lights!
While this season is magical there’s a lot to be cautious about to keep it that way! Give Transformation Electric a call to answer any questions you may have this holiday season about your own personal light show!