Nearly 40% of all home fires in the U.S. occur from December through February. Christmas tree fires are five times more deadly than other fires.
When it comes to holiday decorating, we’re often more concerned with the final look, but safety experts warn overloading electrical outlets and using worn light strands is an invitation for an electrical problem, or even disaster.
Angie Hicks, Angie’s List Founder said it’s important to check your decorations for broken light bulbs, or frayed cords before you put them up.
Even if you’re using new lights, check for the UL label and use them only as approved.
Don’t place indoor lights outside, and all outside lights should plug into a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlet, which can be identified by the “test” and “reset” buttons on the face.
They help prevent electric shock and potential fires.
“They determine how much load is on the hot wire and how much load is on the neutral wire,” Sammie Bracken, an electrician said. “If those two things are balanced, it allows it to work. If there’s too much on the black wire and not enough on the white wire, as in when someone is being shocked, there’s an imbalance and it will actually shut off.”
Lots of older homes don’t have GFCI outlets, but an electrician can convert them for about $200.
A less expensive option is to purchase an adapter that plugs right into your standard outlet.
“If you’re thinking about new lights this year, the LED lights are a good alternative,” Hicks said. “They stay cooler, last longer and use less energy. Also, they work with any extension cord, even the ones you can find at the drug store.”
And depending on what you’re plugging in, non-grounded outlets with a non-grounded plug-in are actually as safe as they can be.
Bracken said they’ve been tested to be used in a certain manner.
That’s what the UL code talks about.