Decorating is an essential part of the holiday season in many homes across the country. Unfortunately, those decorations can increase your chances of a fire. Nearly 400 home fires a year are caused by holiday lights and decorations, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, resulting in more than $25 million in property damage. By following a few simple steps, you can keep your home and family safe all season long.
Maintain holiday lights. Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, broken sockets or other signs of wear. Test each light string before hanging it on a tree or other flammable surface. Only use lights approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL).
Make the right connection. Avoid connecting more than three strings of lights together and do not route extension cords under rugs or near walkways. Outside, keep electrical connections off the ground and make sure wiring is clear of downspouts, railings and aluminum siding.
Use the right lights. For outdoor decorating, use only lights and power strips that are approved for outdoor use.
Don’t leave lights unattended. Turn off or unplug holiday lights late at night or when you are away from home. This is not only safer, but it will save energy, too. Use a timer to automatically turn lights on and off based on a set schedule.
Use nonflammable decorations. If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should have a UL label.
In addition to safety, focus on energy efficiency this holiday season. Light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights provide the same bright colors you are used to, but they consume 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and they last up to 25 times longer. LEDs are also cool to the touch, which reduces the risk of fire hazard both indoors and out.