Electrical safety tips for holiday decorators

Electrical safety tips for holiday decorators

The holiday season offers an ideal time for hanging festive lighting on or around the home, but the increased use of electricity creates additional risks for unsuspecting homeowners. Failing to follow basic electrical safety procedures can quickly dampen the mood of any holiday celebration.

Follow these tips to ensure the safety of your home and family during the holiday season:

1. Don't overload electrical outlets

Although it might be tempting, stringing multiple sets of lights together and plugging them into an electrical outlet is highly problematic.

Pasquale Ceriello, field manager at the highly rated Brooklyn, N.Y. electric company Antonio Ceriello Electric Inc., says that plugging too many lights into a single outlet can potentially lead to a house fire.

“Homeowners should always follow manufacturer's installation guidelines and recommendations in order to not overload the circuit,” Ceriello says. “Only use Christmas lights that have fuses in the plugs.”

2. Use GFCI outlets for outdoor lighting

If you plan to hang holiday lights on your home’s exterior this season, you should use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets to prevent ground faults. A ground fault occurs when an overload of electricity escapes the wiring in an appliance and takes a shortcut to the ground. If the current travels through a human, the level of electric shock can be deadly. GFCI outlets will also shut down if even the slightest presence of moisture is detected.

Steve Breton, electrician and owner of highly rated Breton Electric in Wakefield, Mass., says he strongly recommends GFCI outlets to ensure safety while hanging holiday lights.

“For both personal safety and protection of property, ground fault-protected outlets and circuit breakers will shut off if even 6 millionths of an amp are going to ground rather than staying in the circuit,” Breton says.

3. Avoid stapling through holiday light cords

Using a staple gun is a quick way to attach lights to your home, but it can also lead to more serious problems. To avoid accidentally stapling through the cord and electrocuting yourself, only hang lights during the daytime so you can see what you're doing. You can also wrap the cord in duct tape before you staple it to lessen the chance of puncturing through the wire.

Ceriello recommends using plastic hangers to attach lights instead of metal clips or nails.

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