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5 Safety Tips for Holiday Light Displays

5 Safety Tips for Holiday Light Displays
Decorating your house for the holidays can be fun and exciting. But while you compete with your neighbors to create the most outstanding display in the neighborhood, it’s important to always keep electrical safety in mind. Here are five tips from Kolb Electric to help make sure your outdoor lights shine brightly – and more importantly, safely – all season long.

1.   Don’t hang too many lights into the same extension cord or light strand. Too many lights plugged into the same power source can cause your lights to fail. Check the label on your extension cord to see how much power (measured in watts or amps) the cord is rated to handle, and then check the labels on your lights to see how much power each bulb or strand consumes, and be sure to not exceed the rating of your cord. Generally, manufacturers recommend that no more than three strands of lights be connected together or supplied by one extension cord.

2.    Use a proper outdoor, weatherproof outlet. The power for your outdoor light display should come from a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These outlets are designed to disconnect a circuit if it senses a current leakage or a short circuit. Current electrical codes require you to make sure your GFCI outlet also features a watertight cover that allows the outlet to remain covered even with a cord plugged into it. If your house does not currently have an outdoor GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can install one for you.

3.    Make sure your lights and extension cords are rated for outdoor use. Indoor lights and cords are more likely to break down when exposed to bad weather. Choose lights that have met national industry standards – these lights will feature laboratory labels on their packaging to prove they’ve been tested. Two reputable laboratories to look for are UL or ETL. Also, keep your connections above ground, snow and water.

4.    Use the proper outlet adaptors. If you are plugging in a three-prong cord, make sure you are plugging it into a three-prong outlet. If you are using an adaptor, make certain it is rated for use with your cord and, like your cord, rated for outdoor use.

5.    Use caution when installing your lights, and know when to call for help. Always use a good ladder to hang your lights, and always have a second person with you to hold the ladder. If you are uncomfortable or unable to hang your lights yourself, you can hire a reputable electrical contractor to do it for you. Electrical contractors will have the proper ladders – and even bucket trucks – to reach the highest places safely.

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