The holiday season is easily the most festive time of year. One of the most time-honored traditions is bedazzling homes in decorative lights. A Rasmussen Report survey a few years ago revealed a whopping 71% of Americans decorate their homes.
It turns out decking the halls is good for your emotional health. Psychoanalysts say that people who decorate early are happier, largely because the decorations remind them of happy memories from childhood.
Unfortunately, those fond memories can take a turn for the worst really quick. As beautiful as brightly lit holiday displays are, they can also pose risks. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) notes that approximately 5,800 people a year visit the ER because of a fall while putting up holiday decorations. Thousands more are injured by extension cords. And hundreds of house fires are caused by Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.
The last thing you want is to end up in the ER rather than basking in the magical glow of your light display. Make sure you spread holiday cheer rather than hazards with these safety tips.
Never Overload an Outlet
The #1 rule (even when it isn’t the holidays) is to never overload an outlet. If you are using numerous outlets and power strips it’s a sign that your power needs exceed your outlets. Additionally, don’t overload an extension cord by plugging it into a power strip.
Use Lights and Extension Cords Rated for the Intended Use
Extension cords can be dangerous when they aren’t used properly. One thing to watch out for is the rating. Extension cords can be indoor or outdoor and should meet the power needs of what you’re pulling it into. Only use outdoor extension cords for decorations on the exterior of your house.
Don’t Plug Extension Cords Together
It may seem like common practice, but plugging extensions together isn’t recommended because it’s a serious fire hazard.
Never Use Damaged Lights or Extension Cords
A broken bulb can be replaced, but when a string of lights or extension cord is damaged it could injure a person or cause a fire. Always check lights and cords for damage before plugging them in:
- Make sure the socket isn’t cracked or broken.
- Inspect all wires for fraying.
- Look out for visible wires.
- Ensure the connections aren’t loose.
Watch Out for Snow and Standing Water
Letting extension cords and light strands sit in the water or snow is a major no-no. Moisture and electricity never go together, even when lights are rated for outdoor use.
Keep Display Features Away From Heat Sources
The outdoor fireplace or fire pit creates a cozy winter setting, but it can also be hazardous. The same goes for fireplaces and heaters inside. All decorations, including lights, must be at least three feet away from heat sources.
Never Nail or Staple Cords
Nailing and stapling cords could puncture the outer insulation and expose wires. This type of damage can cause someone to be shocked or create a fire. When you need to keep cords out of the way use insulated holders that are designed for that express purpose.
Never Try to Remove the Ground Pin
Some plugs have a third prong at the bottom called a ground pin. The ground pin should never be removed. Doing so could cause an electric shock. Additionally, never try to plug a cord with a three-pronged socket into an outlet with two slots.
Be Careful Where You Place Cords
Cords need to be clear of pathways to prevent trips and should always be exposed. Putting cords under rugs, furniture and curtains could cause them to overheat.
Turn Decorations Off When You Leave or Go to Sleep
Turning lighted decorations off when you aren’t at home or are asleep is more energy-efficient and safer. The easiest option is to use a timer that can be set to turn the lights on and off based on your daily schedule.
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