Don't Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights Till You’ve Read these 10 Safety Tips
On the first day of Christmas Metropolitan gave to me, 10 safety tips for protecting the home and my family.
Jokes aside, we’re serious about electrical safety and want to share some general advice for hanging outdoor Christmas lights in a way that’s safe and limits the risks of fire or faults. Some of these are common sense, but others may be overlooked or the consequences not considered before it’s too late. And this is especially true if it’s your first Christmas decorating the exterior of a home.
Here are 10 tips for safely hanging outdoor Christmas lights:
1. Test Fairy Lights
Each year before hanging fairy lights, check them over for frayed wiring and if in good condition, test in an accessible powerpoint. They may have deteriorated after several years of use or could be faulty out of the box.
It’s not uncommon to uncurl a set of fairy lights only to discover that they no longer work. These lights are often cheaply made and designed around a closed circuit where the entire set stops working if one light fails.
You can test the lights using a handheld tool called a Multimeter. Maybe you already have one in the shed? If not, they can be purchased from hardware and electronic stores for around $50. Use this handheld tool to discover which light is not working and replace it with a spare.
2. Buy Australian Compliant Fairy Lights
All Christmas lights sold in stores must be compliant with Australian standards. However, purchase cheap fairy lights online, and you could find ones made overseas that don’t meet local safety standards. Sure, they work just as well, but if something did go wrong and the lights caused a fire, insurance may not cover the costs of damages.
For your family’s safety and peace of mind, only purchase Australian compliant Christmas lights.
3. Only Use Christmas Lights Rated for Outdoors
When it comes to selecting outdoor Christmas lights, make sure you purchase ones rated for outdoors use. Don’t take the description at face value. Read the packaging of the desired lights and look for the IP Rating. This describes a product’s resistance to moisture, dust and other foreign bodies. Indoor fairy lights won’t have this rating and could blow a fuse, start a fire or create an electrical hazard if used outdoors.
In Australia, outdoor equipment must have a rating of least IP23, but the higher, the better.
4. Don’t Overload the Power Supply
Connecting too many sets of lights or appliances to just one powerpoint can overload your power supply. Most likely, this will trip the safety switch in your meter box, but there’s potential for a plug or appliance to overheat and start a fire.
Most outdoor Christmas lights are low voltage, which is expressed on the packaging. The rule of thumb is not to load a circuit over 80%. This would require many lights, but if the same powerpoint is shared between other appliances, it’s possible to hit this percentage.
By checking the box that the lights came in, you’ll be able to learn the volts or watts of the set and use this to calculate total amperage. With powerboards, look for models with a built in safety switch for an extra layer of security.
5. Use Waterproof Leads and Connectors
Your outdoor Christmas lights are only as protected from rain as the leads that connect them. Waterproof extension leads are required outdoors as they carry an IP rating, so pick up ones compliant to Australian standards.
You can also purchase weatherproof connectors, which are plastic casings to protect the connection between lights and extension leads. These covers are only a few dollars each and well worth it for protection through wet weather.
6. Gutter Hooks for Fairy Lights
Save yourself some serious hassle by purchasing a packet of gutter hooks. These simple plastic clips are affordable and save you the grief of potentially damaging the home.
There’s no need to drill any surfaces with gutter hooks, which could break bricks, crack concrete, and rust gutters.
There’s no need to drill and risk damage when a packet of 100 or more costs $5 at Bunnings. Instead, take the easy, safer way out as the festivities only last a few weeks each year.
7. Properly Secure and Elevate Lights
A little common sense goes a long way when hanging Christmas lights. Secure lights to walls, trees or fences to ensure they don’t receive damage during high winds and storms. Rope and cable ties are cheap options, and tent pegs work well to attach larger lawn decorations.
Keep Christmas lights elevated whenever possible and don’t let them cross paths or driveways to avoid the risks of injury and damage to the decorations.
8. Ladder Safety
According to Brain Injuries Australia, ladder falls are the most common DIY injury, with one in 10 resulting in an intracranial injury such as a concussion. So, avoid becoming a statistic while hanging lights.
Start by wearing non-slip footwear and work within your arm’s reach. Avoid leaning out, and maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Use two hands when climbing, and never climb higher than the second step from the top of an A-frame ladder and the third step of an extension ladder. Follow the instructions accompanying the ladder and do not use a metal ladder near live wires.
Let’s have no ladder related injuries this year, yeah?
9. Switch Off Outdoor Lights Before Bed
Switching off Christmas lights before bed is an easy and straightforward step to keep the family safe from electrical faults and potential fires. With the family asleep, there’s no one alert to act fast if something does go wrong. Plus, you’re paying for electricity to show lights that no one will see late at night. So switch them off before bed.
Better yet, place the lights on a timer so they power off at a designated time even if you do forget.
10. Safe Storage for Next Christmas
One of the main factors in defective fairy lights is improper storage. Tangled lights can damage the fragile bulbs, so safe storage will help ensure the lights survive until the following Christmas.
However, the fairy lights don’t typically come in anything other than a cardboard box or plastic tub, so you will have to get creative.
Carefully wrapping lights around an old spool works well. So does an item with a cylindrical shape like the core from a roll of Christmas paper. Cardboard with a small section cut out of each side is another suitable alternative. You can also purchase specially made light holders for the best protection.
Safe storage reduces the likelihood of damage and tangles, so your outdoor Christmas lights are ready to go next holiday season.
If you need an outdoors powerpoint installed or your switchboard upgraded for higher electrical capacity, call Metropolitan. Our team of electricians are on call 24/7 to upgrade your home for safer Christmas lights, and we can be at your door in no time at all.