We are not far from outdoor holiday decorating time. While it is fun (for some people) to decorate the house with lights and décor pieces, it can be dangerous. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12,000 people are injured each year due to holiday decorating. If you are going to hang lights or decorate outdoors for any holiday (Halloween, Hanukkah, Christmas, etc.), keep these safety tips in mind.
Before you go outside…
Check your outdoor holiday lights. Have you ever spent hours on a project to realize that something isn’t working properly? Don’t let that happen with your outdoor holiday décor. Plug each string of lights in and check each bulb before installing it. Make sure each bulb not only works, but also is screwed in its socket tightly so you know it will work once installed. It’s much easier to check and change bulbs in the comfort of your living room than outside on a ladder.
Read the product information. This goes for both your lights and any extension cords you may be planning on using for the system. The first thing to check is what they are actually made for. There is a big difference between products that are made for outdoor use and those that are made for indoor use. Outdoor products are designed to withstand the elements, indoors aren’t. Using indoor product outdoors can cause shortages and failures. Once you’ve verified that your lights and cords are safe to use, check any usage numbers associated with the cords. You don’t want to overload them with too many strings of lights.
Dress appropriately for what you are doing. This tip is particularly important if you are going up on a roof, in a tree or up a ladder. What shoes you wear are incredibly important. They need to have traction so that you don’t slip on any surface that may become wet and slippery. Additionally, don’t wear too loose of clothing that may get caught on branches, clips, ladders, etc. The more fitted your clothing is the less likely you are to have to free yourself of being connected to something.
Have a buddy to help. It’s always safer to install lighting, especially any that is off the ground, using the buddy system. Your buddy can spot you as you climb and pass you anything that you may need allowing you to focus on your safety and what you are hanging or installing.
Unplug everything. While installing your lights, you should not have it connected to a power source. They should be off. It is much safer to not have any electricity running through a system while you are working with it.
Make sure everything is secure. While the holidays are a time of cheer, they also happen to occur in months that can be harsh. Make sure that your outdoor holiday lights are securely connected to your home, tree, etc. so that nothing pulls in the wind. When securing things to your home, DO NOT USE NAILS! Nailing or stapling lights to your home may cause future damage like leaks in your roof. Use lighting clips that are made for installing string lights. They are easy to secure to and remove from your home.
After you’re finished installing…
Check the system. Plug everything in and make sure it is all working as planned. If something isn’t working and you think you know why, unplug everything again before trying to fix it. For lights that you placed or installed on the ground, make sure they aren’t in areas of your property that you know are known to hold water when it rains. Lights should never be in standing water.
Unplug the system at night. We all love not only enjoying our holiday lights, but also allowing our friends and neighbors to enjoy them as well. That being said, they shouldn’t be on all the time in case something sparks or shorts. When you go to bed, make sure everything is properly unplugged and off.
Enjoy. This is the key to all outdoor holiday systems. Go outside and just look at your lights.
For those of you who don’t want to chance injury, there are outdoor lighting companies, like us at Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, that would be happy to install and take down your lights for you. If you have questions, please contact your local Outdoor Lighting Perspectives office.