Merry and Bright: 12 Electrical Safety Tips for the Holidays

feature holiday electrical safety

Halloween is over, which means it’s time to prepare for the holidays. Soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving and then a few weeks after, Christmas and New Year will follow.

Besides being around family, eating delicious meals, and giving/receiving gifts, probably one of the best things about the holidays is putting up decorations. And even if we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the next few weeks, we must remember to keep safety a priority in our homes.

Did you know that the National Fire Protection Associate reports around 860 home fires each year were caused by holiday decors? The NFPA also estimates that 210 fires are caused by Christmas trees. In addition to these numbers, heating equipment, which is mostly used during this time of the year, is a leading cause of home fires in the U.S. In fact, there were an estimated 48,530 fires involving heating appliances each year from 2014 to 2018. With these statistics, it’s just right that homeowners take extra precautionary measures to protect their property and loved ones from potential risk.

We’ve come up with our top 12 electrical safety tips to keep your holidays merry and bright.

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1. Begin with a plan – Before you put up any decorations, it’s a smart move to plan where they will go. In terms of electrical safety, planning will help determine where your outlets are so you can spread out where you will plug in your lights, decors, devices, etc. You don’t want to plug in multiple electronics in one outlet as this could cause an overload and is a potential fire hazard.

2. Inspect your decorations – Your decors have probably been sitting in a box for months in your basement or attic. Before using your electrical decors, you want to make sure that you inspect them first. Keep an eye out for frayed wiring, loose parts, cracks, broken lights, and sockets. Discard any items that are already damaged and worn out.

3. Follow care instructions – The best way to use your lights and other electric decorations safely is to follow the manufacturer’s use and care instructions. Doing this will also extend the lifespan of your decors.

4. Go for LED – If you are going to purchase new Christmas lights, do consider buying LED lights instead of fluorescent incandescent ones. There are many advantages of using LED lights. First, LED lights don’t burn out like traditional bulbs. Second, LED lights do not get hot to touch, which means they are safer to use on Christmas trees, wreaths, or garlands. Another reason is that LED lights only use up to 25% of the energy used by incandescent bulbs and they last 25 times longer, so they are a great option in terms of energy and money savings.

5. Careful when hanging exterior lights – Speaking of lights, if you are hanging exterior lights, be mindful that they are not hung up close to electrical lines. Another good rule to follow if you’re using incandescent lights is to connect no more than three sets of lights as this could blow a fuse.

In addition, pay attention to the lights that you’re using and ensure that they’re intended for outdoor use.

6. Do not overload outlets – One of the most important things to remember in terms of electrical safety is to be mindful of what you plug into your wall outlets. Overloading receptacles with extension cords that are connected to multiple decorations or devices are unsafe. This could cause your circuit breaker to trip or ignite a fire. It would be good to know the number of watts that you’re plugging in (it’s recommended to not exceed 1,500 watts per outlet).

If you do need extra outlets, either to plug decorations in or simply because your outlets are insufficient, consider hiring a local electrician near you to add more outlets to your home.

7. Keep your tree fresh – If you’re going to purchase a natural Christmas tree, make sure to choose the freshest one you can get. A live tree that will stay green for a longer period is most unlikely to catch fire than a dry tree. Also, remember to water the tree daily.

On the other hand, if you’re going to buy an artificial tree, opt for the ones that are fire-resistant to reduce the chances of the tree catching fire.

8. Protect your cords – When using extension cords for your decorations, make sure that you don’t run them under carpets as this prevents the cord from releasing heat and could start a fire. Do not also run them through doorways where the cords could be tripped over or near furniture that could damage the wiring.

Use proper clips or insulated hooks for cords and avoid using nails or staples that could pierce through the wires. It is also good to remember to keep the cords out of reach of children and pets.

(Also read our electrical safety tips around kids)

9. Be mindful of your heat sources – Again, there are plenty of heating appliance-related fires that are recorded each year, so you have to put extra attention when using them. If you are operating an electric space heater or using the fireplace, be sure to keep all combustible items at least three feet away from the heat source. Some examples of combustible materials are Christmas trees, curtains, or any item that could easily catch fire and quickly burn.

10. Keep an eye on the stove – This safety rule should be followed all year round, but this is especially true when you’re cooking holiday meals. Cooking Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is usually bigger and requires running multiple cooking equipment at the same time. Be sure to have someone in the kitchen when cooking any meal, as pots can boil over and electronic cooking equipment can malfunction.

11. Turn off all decors when not in use – When you’re heading to bed or when you’re not home, make sure that you shut off or unplug all decorations and lights. Leaving your electric decors unattended is not only a safety issue, but it will also add up on your electricity bill.

12. Consult an expert – For our last tip, if you’re unsure about installing decorations that need electricity, or if you have concerns about electrical safety, consider seeking the advice of a professional electrician who is knowledgeable and updated on safety regulations.

The holidays are an excellent time to spend with family and friends, and by practicing these safety tips, you will be sure to have a wonderful holiday season.