Almost every home strings lights during the festive season – but like any electrical appliance, Christmas lights can be a potential hazard. Here are our top 10 tips for keeping your family safe over Christmas.
1. Buy from Reputable Retailers
If you’re purchasing new Christmas lights, be sure to buy from a trusted retailer. Cheaper lights sourced online may not meet New Zealand safety standards.
2. Choose LED Bulbs
Most new Christmas lights feature LED bulbs, which are not only brighter – but are also more cost effective to run and emit less heat than traditional lights.
3. Check Last Year’s Lights
If you’re putting up older lights, be sure to check them first before adding them to your tree. Be on the lookout for any wire fraying, broken bulbs or loose connections – all of which can be a fire hazard. If in doubt, throw them out. Grandma’s lights may have sentimental value, but it’s not worth the risk if they’ve done their dash.
4. Avoid a Mess of Cables
If your Christmas tree is gong to be positioned in an area with no nearby power outlet, opt for battery-operated lights over running extension cords. Not only can extension cords create a tripping hazard – they can also create electrical hazards since they’re prone to fraying over time.
5. Ditch the Multi-Box
While a tree dripping with twinkling lights might look stunning, avoid overloading your outlets with multi-boxes. Instead, upgrade to a single longer length of lights that requires only one plug. If you are going to use a multi-box, invest in a surge-protector.
6. Decorate Thoughtfully
When hanging your other ornaments around your lights, be mindful of not placing flammable decorations directly over lights. Even LED bulbs emit a small amount of heat over time, and a carelessly hung feathered turtledove could spell disaster.
7. Water & Lights Never Mix
If you’re decorating a real pine tree, studies have shown it’s vital to keep it well watered to reduce the risk of fire (just check out this video showing the difference between the controlled burn rates of a watered versus unwatered real tree). However you’re watering your tree (a tree stand with a water reservoir is a great method to help keep it fresh), pay special attention to your lights and leads and ensure they never come into contact with water.
8. Adhere to Intended Use
Always read the instructions on your lights before use, and never use indoor lights outdoors (even in covered areas) or vice versa.
9. Choose Solar Outdoors
Nowadays there are tons of great solar lighting options available, so update your outdoor lights to safe and sun-powered where possible. If you do decide to use plug-in outdoor lights, only connect them to a power outlet or extension cord designed for outdoor use.
10. Switch Off Before Bed
Be sure to switch all plugged-in Christmas lights off if you leave the house, or before you go to bed.
BONUS: Proper Storage Post Christmas
Winding and storing your Christmas lights properly after Christmas won’t just help to avoid a nightmare of knots of untangle next season – it can also help to prevent your light strings from fraying or getting damp.
To store your Christmas lights like a pro, invest in a purpose-designed fairy light storage box, or DIY a great solution using a cardboard box or canister. Cut a notch in a large square of sturdy cardboard (the kind you’d cut from the side of a packing box) or the end of a cardboard canister (like a Pringles can), tuck one end of your string lights into the notch to secure, then wind the lights around the cardboard.
To keep your lights protected and bone dry, pop them in a hard plastic storage box with a sturdy lid, and stow them in a damp-free area, such as a wardrobe or your garage, as opposed to a shed.