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Nuts & Bolts

November 7, 2013

Holiday lights safety: How not to be the Griswolds

Whether you string up lights to adorn your home and yard every holiday or just wait for Christmas, it's important to keep electrical safety in mind when decorating. After all, you don't want to be your neighborhood's version of the Griswolds from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."



Here's an important list of eight electrical safety tips for holiday decorators, from Safe Electricity.

1. Keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas. Do not run electrical cords across sidewalks or other walkway areas that could trip or endanger visitors. Indoors, avoid stretching cords across a room where people or pets can trip over them or become entangled.

2. Make sure that the lights you use have been safety tested by an approved laboratory.

3. Double-check light strings to see if they are frayed. Replace damaged strings.

4. Make sure extension cords are in good condition. Use only cords that are certified by UL, ETL, or CSA and rated to carry the electrical load you will connect to them. Electric overloads can cause shocks and start fires.

Read the label on both the cord and the appliances that are plugged into it to make sure the cord can handle the load. If it cannot, use a higher-rated cord, or unplug some appliances. Remember that extension cords are meant for temporary, not permanent, use.

5. Outdoors, use only lights, cords, and animated displays rated for outdoor use.

6. Ensure that outdoor lights are securely fastened to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only plastic hooks or insulated staples to hold light strings in place, not nails or tacks. Also, be sure not to staple or nail through light strings or electrical cords.

7. Cords should be plugged into outlets equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets do not have them. GFCI protection is very important outdoors, where weather conditions can create potentially dangerous electrical situations.

8. Always turn off or unplug lights before going to bed or leaving your home. A timer can help you make sure this happens.

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