Christmas is a great season for gathering with the family and friends, but it’s also a season when things can sometimes go awry. That’s because we don’t put safety first. And to get some ideas on how we can do that, where it matters most with your lights and everything, we go to Bolden Brothers, electrician, Dan. Dan, good morning.
Christmas Home Safety Tips:
So Dan, you’ve been with Bolden Brothers a while.
Yeah, a couple of years.
So you’ve seen some Christmases come and go in your day, I’m sure? And some ideas we have for keeping it safety, some suggestions, obviously, the first thing is the tree.
Right, if you’re going to buy a tree, if you’re going to get a fire-resistant artificial tree, that’s great. If not, get the freshest tree you can. One that has green needles, hard to pull off. They bend instead of break. And you want to get a good fresh tree, not something that’s dry and ready to catch fire.
And those will be harder to find as we get closer into Christmas, too. You may have to go from one lot to another. And of course, you want to keep that tree watered. One way you can keep your tree fresher, and less last longer is to spritz your tree. And that is to take a spray bottle with water and spritz the branches to keep the needles moist, just so you know. And when you do that, obviously you’re going to want to turn off the lights while you’re doing that.
So let’s go outside now. Let’s talk about the outside part of Christmas. I know that outdoor lights belong outdoors, and indoor lights belong indoors. Can you explain why that is?
Well, things are rated for different areas, and the things that are rated for outdoors can handle the humidity, the rain, the snow, all of that. If it’s rated for indoors, it’s not set up to handle any of that. The water will get in there and shut everything down, and there’s potential for electric shock there.
Technically we could use outdoor lights inside?
Okay. So it just can’t go the other way. Now, a lot of times I see people using these hooks that they put up on their house. Is there any danger to that?
You know what, if you’re going to use the hooks, something that’s insulated, something that isn’t metal just to your wire because if there’s ever a nick in the wire, and then the metal touches it, there’s potential there for you to get hurt.
If you’re going to go totally Griswold here and try to literally light up the house, probably a good idea to check those lights before you put them up, too.
Yeah, check them all, make sure everything works, which takes time, and it’s a pain to do that, but it better to do it before you put it up and things don’t work.
Chances are, those lights aren’t going to go where there’s a plug waiting, so we’re going to wind up using some extension cords. I’m sure you have some thoughts on keeping an extension cord safe.
Yeah, there are a few different things you can do. Wherever the extension cord plugs into the lights, you want to keep that off the ground and protected from water. Use a brick or a rock. Don’t use Aunt Susie’s fruitcake.
It might be the best use of it, but okay.
Do you know what I mean? It’s tempting. It’s tempting to do that, but you use the fruitcake, and then the squirrels get it, and then you’ve got a different problem.
Chances are that fruit cake could be a conductor too, so you don’t want to use it for that reason.
Right, right. They do also have a protector for wherever you go from light to light, the plugin adapter, there’s something that protects that and seals it off. You can use one of those, those work really well to seal it off from water. Anything, where a connection is made, is the potential for water to get into.
And you want to keep that wrapped up, and dry, and off the ground.
Yeah, and then everything that you plug into should be GFI protected.
If I’m going to plug this in, how do I know that plug is a GFI-protected plug?
Typically, there’s a push-button on it, a trip and reset button. Some of them are on a GFI circuit, and they might not have the button on it, but they’re on a GFI circuit. Typically, it’ll say trip and reset, and there’s a button you can push.
Is it possible that I’ve got a GFI plug over at one end, and there were other plugs run off that same GFI on the outside?
So if we’re going to make sure a plug is GFI safe, is there a way we can trip the GFI to see if those other plugs go out?
There is a type of plug tripper. That’s one way to go about it. Plugin the GFI tester, but if you don’t have a GFI tester, you could push the trip button on your GFIs, and turn off the plugs, and see if those are still on. If they’re still on, then they’re not GFI protected.
And you shouldn’t use them for your Christmas lights?
Now, what about how many lights we can put on a circuit?
A lot of the individual lights will tell you how much you can put on. With the addition of LED the past several years, there’s a lot more that you can put on. Each cord, or if it’s a newer cord, should tell you. If it’s not LED, a lot of times they say three strands will do, but it all depends on your house, and the wiring, and what size the circuit is that goes to it.
Let’s talk about that for a second. How do we know we have too many lights on a circuit?
The breaker goes, but I mean-
But before that?
The extension cord could start getting warm. I would say after you’ve had the lights plugged in for a little while, check it. Just feel the extension cord. Is it getting hot? Is it just getting slightly warm? A little bit warm is okay, but if it starting to get hot, then you’re overloading it.
We don’t want that. Now, it makes sense to not have your lights on when you leave the house. But what about all night?
Well, it’s similar. It’s a similar situation. When you’re not home, you’re not able to monitor what’s going on with your lights. Make sure that everything is working properly and is safe. And it’s similar when you’re asleep, you’re not able to monitor as well. Not like you’re sitting there watching over it, but it’s something to wear, something could happen, and you’re not able to know what’s going on.
We have a neighbor that has these super bright LED lights on during the Christmas season, and we have to close all the drapes on that side of the house at night in order to get any sleep because they leave them on all night. So turn them off to be a good neighbor too. So anyway, let’s fast forward here a minute, Dan, and say the holiday season is over. How about when we take these lights down and put them away? Do you have any suggestions on how to handle them properly then?
Put them away neatly. It’ll save you trouble in the future, but also seal it off if there’s some type of sealable container, mice, rodents, different things like to get into things and chew on it. If that happens, then it’s something that you might not see until next year. And then you plug it in, and there’s a safety issue there. So you want to have it sealed off.
So to sum it up, Dan, you want us to buy an artificial tree. If we do that, make sure it’s fire-resistant, or if we buy a real one, make sure it’s fresh. Use indoor lights indoors, and outdoor lights outdoors. Don’t use metal hooks. Use insulated hooks. Check your lights before you put them up. Watch your extension cord. Warm’s okay, hot is bad, so don’t overload your circuits, and it’s best to use a GFI circuit for your lights, and turn them off when you’re not home or you’re going to bed. Does that sound about right?
That sounds about right.
Well, thanks a lot, Dan. I appreciate your help. Of course, you can find lots more useful help for all kinds of electrical applications here at boldenbrothers.com