13 Holiday Light Dangers You Need to Know

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Christmas lights can present a hazard inside and outside the house if precautions are taken. Make sure you know these Christmas light dangers.

Christmas-tree-lit-up-at-nightNina Buday/Shutterstock

This holiday season, don’t forget about the potential hazards your Christmas tree lights can present in your home. U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires each holiday season from 2014-18 with an average of two deaths, 14 injuries and $10 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Lighting equipment and electrical distribution accounted for 45 percent of home Christmas tree fires. Here are the holiday light dangers you need to know:

Don’t Use Electric Lights on a Metal Tree

Electrical shock and fire are risks with this combination. Decorate these trees with ornaments, garland, or tinsel, but nothing that needs to be plugged in!

Don’t Leave Lights on Overnight or While Gone From Home

Whether your tree is live or artificial, unplug the tree lights before leaving the house or going to bed. If you have these holiday decorations, watch out for these fire hazards.

Flame and Trees Don’t Mix

Your tree might look nice near the fireplace, but resist the urge to set it up there. Keep the tree at least 3 feet from fireplaces, as well as lit candles. These hidden things could be a fire hazard in your home.

Verify Proper Rating

Be skeptical of discount Christmas lights and make sure they have a product safety testing logo, either from Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL Semko).

Check for Fraying

A lot of things can happen in a year when you store your Christmas lights. Depending upon where you store your Christmas decorations, you could encounter some damage to your lights. Learn these Christmas decoration storage tips to protect your decorations.

Use Indoor Lights Indoors and Outdoor Lights Outside

It seems pretty obvious but people sometimes think they’re interchangeable. They’re not — unless they’re marked that way on the package. Lights designed for outdoor use are made to withstand cold and wet conditions.

Indoor lights are safety tested so they’re not a fire hazard for trees, but they’re not durable enough for outdoors.

Never Use Staples, Tacks or Nails to Hang Lights

Staples, tacks and nails can pierce Christmas light strands and create a potential electrical shock. It’s best to use plastic holders designed to hang Christmas lights.

Extension Cords

Make sure they’re in good shape and don’t overload them. Place them in a area where they won’t be a tripping hazard and they won’t topple your Christmas tree and decorations. In other words, don’t try to emulate Clark Griswold this winter. 

These are the best extension cords for running Christmas lights outside.

Bulb Replacement

It’s dangerous to plug in a strand of Christmas lights with an empty socket, so it’s important to test your Christmas lights with a bulb tester. Here’s how to use a bulb tester for your Christmas lights.

Know How Many Strands You Can Connect

The rule of thumb is that you can only string three strands of traditional incandescent lights together safely. Any more than that and we’ve created a potentially dangerous electrical situation. If you’re using LED lights, you can probably relax — as many as 40-50 LED mini-light strands can be strung together safely.

Keep Your Live Tree Hydrated

If you’re celebrating with a live Christmas tree, be sure to keep it watered. In the event of a fire, a dry tree will burn much faster than a well-watered one. Use these Christmas tree safety tips to make sure your tree stays hydrated.

Use GFCI Outlets for Outdoor Lights

A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) reduces the danger of deadly shock from faulty plug-in cords and devices. It will detect dangerous ground faults and immediately turn off the power. Here’s what you need to know about adding an outdoor outlet to power your Christmas lights.

Don’t Run Lights Through Windows or Doors

It should go without saying but you shouldn’t run lights through doors and windows because the cord can become damaged, creating a dangerous electrical situation.

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