Strands of glistening holiday lighting make your home feel festive and bright, especially on a dreary December or January day. However, if improperly installed, they have the potential to cause damage to your home or electrical system.
Before you grab your ladder and boxes of lights, take a look at our list of dos and don'ts for safely hanging holiday lighting strands.
Check Lights Before Hanging
Any holiday lighting sets with cracked or broken sockets, loose connections, or frayed or bare wires should be returned or discarded. Replace burned-out bulbs with bulbs of the same wattage as soon as possible. Hanging lights with faulty electrical wiring creates a potentially explosive short.
To support electrical wiring, use verified lighting and appropriate outdoor outlets.
For outdoor use, only use lights that have been tested, rated, and approved by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL Semko). These safety ratings should be clearly labeled, both on the packaging and on the electrical cords.
All outdoor electrical decorations should be connected to a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This safety outlet is designed to cut power if electricity comes into contact with water, which happens frequently outside. You can buy portable GFCI units for outdoor use.
Consider Using LEDs Instead of Incandescent Light Bulbs
LED lights are approximately 75% more efficient than incandescent lights. According to the US Department of Energy, this reduces your electrical load by more than seven times. If you don't already have LED lights, consider using the cooler-burning "mini" holiday lights instead of the larger bulbs, which burn much hotter.
Inquire for Assistance
Holiday lighting can cause damage to your home if not installed correctly. Furthermore, installing outdoor lights can be hazardous, especially if your roof has steep pitches or multiple levels. It is critical to seek help if you are not feeling comfortable. Find a friend to assist you with the installation, or if you have electrical concerns, contact a licensed electricians to upgrade your outdoor electrical system.
Use the same outlet or extension cord to power too many lights.
Each standard circuit breaker can handle approximately 15 amps of current. Individual light strings only draw a few milliamps. When too many strings are combined, it is easy to overdraw power.
This has the potential to seriously damage your electrical wiring. Furthermore, the more lights you connect end to end, the further the power must travel, resulting in dim lights.
Never use staples, tacks, or nails because they can cause electrical wiring damage.
The fact that Clark Griswold did it on Christmas Vacation does not imply that it will work in your home. It's not uncommon for a holiday light string to have exposed electrical wiring in some areas. Unfortunately, using metal fasteners such as staples, tacks, or nails creates a circuit and generates heat that could cause your home to catch fire.
Furthermore, if metal components come into contact with a live string of holiday lighting and the current then touches metal components of your home, such as gutters or downspouts, an electrocution hazard is created.
Always use insulated holders or plastic roof clips that are specifically designed for hanging outside lights.
Connect LED and Incandescent Lighting
Because incandescent light strings require a higher power current than LEDs, connecting them one after the other causes the incandescent lights to overload — and then fry — the LED strings.
To avoid frying your electrical wiring, keep holiday lighting strands completely separate and connected to separate outlets.