Electrical Safety For The Holidays

November 26, 2015


christmas lights

Every year fire departments across the Lower Mainland are called out to homes, set ablaze by faulty or over loaded electrical wiring, or malfunctioning holiday decorations. It is heartbreaking to hear about yet another family left homeless during what is supposed to be the most joyous time of year.

In their enthusiasm to celebrate the season, some homeowners are creating unsafe conditions with the use of electricity in decorating their homes and yards for the holiday season. Incorrectly applied electricity is not very forgiving and can cause significant damage, and in some cases even tragedy. Just following a few precautions can make all the difference in keeping the focus of this wonderful season a joyous one. The following safety tips are a few things every homeowner should know, when using electricity for holiday decorating.
Please remember:

  • Use only Christmas lights that are approved for use in Canada. The BC Safety Authority website has a bulletin that lists the testing and approval agencies that are accepted in BC for all electrical equipment and products. Knock-off products are making their way into some stores, so purchase carefully.
  • Always inspect for frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections before you start your decorating. Discard damaged sets as they can cause shocks or start a fire.
  • Replace burned out light bulbs with bulbs of the correct wattage, as stated on the packaging. An incorrectly sized bulb can create over-heating in the socket and cause a fire.
  • Use only outdoor rated lights for exterior applications as they are designed for our wet winter conditions. The packaging should state whether lights can be used indoor, outdoors or both.
  • christmas lightsTo save on energy consumption, consider replacing the traditional, larger, old style light bulb strings with cooler burning, energy efficient LED lights.
  • Except for exterior receptacles that are more than 2.5 meters (8 feet) above grade, all outdoor electrical decorations must be plugged into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacles. Keep in mind that an extension cord, plugged into a soffit or upper deck receptacle, must be GFCI protected if that power is being dropped down to below the 2.5 meter level.
  • To eliminate dangling or trailing extension cords, install additional soffit receptacles or strategically placed receptacles in landscaping.
  • Always stay at least 3 meters (10 feet) clear of all power lines or feeder lines (the wires connecting the power from the electrical pole to your home) when decorating exterior locations around the house and yard.
  • Only use a wooden or fiberglass ladder when working with live electrical circuits, as metal ladders conduct electricity and therefore pose a threat of electrocution. Leave all light strings unplugged until installation is complete.
  • Never use nails, tacks or staples to attach the string sets to any surface. Use plastic or insulated holders, or run strings through hooks instead.
  • Never put electric Christmas lights on a metallic tree or a tree with a metal frame, unless GFCI protected. Faulty light strings can energize the tree and cause injury if touched, or short out the lights and cause a fire. Illuminate metallic trees with coloured floodlights placed at a safe distance from the tree and out of reach of pets and children.
  • The installation of GFCI and AFCI receptacles can greatly increase your safety.
  • Use extension cords properly. Outdoor rated cords can be used either outdoors or indoors but indoor rated cords are restricted for indoor use only.
  • Use a properly sized extension cord for the electrical load it is required to carry, as an overloaded extension cord can get hot enough to burn.
  • Never run extension cords under carpets or rugs and always uncoil a cord that is in use to prevent possible overheating.
  • overloaded outletThere is often a tendency to overload wall outlets during the holiday season. This is an unsafe practice and should be avoided even for short periods of time. Here is a simple formula to determine how many lights you can safely string together. Find out the wattage of each bulb on the string (the packaging should have this information) and multiply it by the number of lights strung together. The resulting number should not exceed 1400.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets as poor contact may cause overheating or shock. A receptacle that allows a plug to move around or fall out completely is worn out and should be replaced.
  • A breaker that keeps tripping requires your attention. Do not ignore it! The circuit may be over loaded or the breaker may be wearing out and needs to be replaced. Call us for assistance.
  • Turn off all Christmas lights before leaving home or retiring for the night.
  • Never pull on a string of lights as this can result in stressed or frayed wires. Remove the strings carefully and store loosely coiled so you can do this all over again next year.

hanging christmas lightsThis year, as you bring those decorations out of storage, think safety. As you scale ladders, climb trees and balance on rooftops to share the Christmas spirit with your neighbourhood, think safety. The best gift you can give your family is a safe home. Let’s make this Christmas Season a safe one.

If you require more information regarding the safe installation of electrical decorations, call us at any of the numbers listed on our contact page.

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