Holiday Safety and extension cords

Submitted by sshockley on
A strand of Christmas lights

The warm glow of holiday lights brightens the spirits of everyone, even the Grinch! As with any home decorating project, you must keep safety at the forefront of your planning. So as you are rearranging furniture and adding festive lighting, keep these tips in mind:

  • Beware of missing or broken bulbs
    • Replace any missing or broken bulbs before you string up your porch or tree because they could lead to electrocution, fires, or injuries. Most lights come with replacement bulbs, but you can buy a pack at your local home improvement store for as little as $3.
  • Pick the right kind of light
    • While indoor and outdoor lights are similar in appearance and function, you shouldn't use them interchangeably. You should only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outside. Here's why: Manufacturers test indoor lights to ensure they aren't a fire hazard for tree decorating, while outdoor lights are tested to withstand cold and rainy weather. Outside lights could pose a fire hazard if you string them up on the family tree because they're often hotter, while the indoor lights probably wouldn't survive the snowstorm. 
  • Look for the UL seal
    • That seal means that the lights meet the national industry standards of the American National Standards Institute.
  • Choose the right cord
    • Like the string lights, you should always use an extension cord rated for outdoor use when stringing up lights on the porch or house. Indoor-use extension cords can't withstand cold or wet environments.
  • Keep the cord dry
    • You shouldn't let your extension cords sit on the ground. Make sure the junction where your light cord and extension cord meet stays out of puddles, damp soil, snow, or ice. A damaged extension cable could cause injury or death from electrocution, fire, or carbon monoxide poisoning if wet. 
  • Prevent tripping hazards
    • Keep your light strands off the ground, too. Lights and cords on the ground pose a tripping danger and can quickly break if stepped on. 
  • Don't make your lights a year-long attraction
    • They're pretty, but don't leave your lights up too long. Many lights, including smart lights, aren't meant for long-term use. Check the light box for information on how long you can safely leave your lights up.
  • Keep it to 3 strands
    • The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights. If you're using LEDs, most UL-labeled lights will tell you on the package how many strings of lights you can safely string together.
  • Don't put cords through doors and windows
    • Don't run your extension cords through a window or door cracks. The cord could become pinched, fraying the insulation around the wires and leading to a nasty shock.
  • Never use staples, tacks, or nails to hang lights
    • Sharp objects can easily pierce the strands and create a potential electrical shock. Using plastic holders or simply wrapping the lights around the fence, porch, or tree is best. 
  • Turn off lights overnight
    • Though beautiful and festive, you should turn off your lights for a few hours each day. 

Be safe, and have a Happy Holiday season!