Christmas lights are magical, and add a sense of festivity to your home. But while Christmas is an exciting time of year, it’s still important to consider the safety of yourself and your family. In this article, we outline Christmas light tips you can use to stay safer this holiday season.
Is it dangerous to leave Christmas lights on?
Leaving your Christmas lights on is more risky than you might think. Between 2013 and 2017, the US fire department responded to almost 950 home fires that started with Christmas trees or holiday decorations, which caused more than $22 million in direct property damage. In the case of Christmas tree fires, 44% involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment, demonstrating the dangers Christmas lights can cause.
Get the right lights for the job
When buying decorations this Christmas, make sure you look for lights that comply with Australian safety standards. Look for an approval number (e.g. NSW1234) or the Australian standards label. Lights without this label do not meet Australia’s strict electrical standards and can be dangerous, with the potential to start fires in your home. Be particularly careful when buying lights online, especially from overseas websites.
Check old lights before you use them
Our favourite lights make it out of the box and onto our tree year after year. But, is it safe to use old Christmas lights? Yes, as long as you check them first. Thoroughly inspect your old Christmas lights for any faults or damage including exposed wiring, damaged leads, missing or damaged bulbs, or frayed cords. To make sure your lights meet the latest safety requirements, you’ll also need to check they have insulated pins.
Keep indoor lights indoors, and check your outdoor lights are up to the task
- Christmas lights are built for indoor or outdoor use, and it’s not safe to use indoor Christmas lights outside. Check the packaging of Christmas lights when you buy to determine whether lights are for indoor or outdoor use.
- Even if you’re buying outdoor rated products, not all outdoor lights are right for all conditions. Some outdoor lights will require the plug to be located indoors and away from rain or wind, and others are for temporary outdoor use only.
- Outdoor Christmas lights will also have an IP rating (e.g. IP23) that shows how weather proof the light is – the higher the number, the better. You may want to choose solar or LED Christmas lights, as these are low voltage and are less likely to cause fires or electrical shock.
- Secure your outdoor lights to avoid rain or wind damage, and make sure your leads are connected safely, and do not run through doorways and windows or over walkways or driveways.
Set up safely
Yes, we know you have a lot to plug-in! But it’s important to set your lights up safely to avoid the risk of fire or shock. When decorating your home with Christmas lights, it’s best to follow these tips:
- Avoid using double adaptors or piggybacking powerboards.
- Use no more than three sets of lights per power board, regardless of the number of outlets.
- Make sure you use powerboards that have both overload protection and earth leakage protection.
- Place your lights away from flammable materials, decorations, curtains and candles.
- Make sure electric cords are completely uncoiled, and not placed under rugs or mats, to avoid possible overheating.
- Leaving the house or going to sleep? Make sure to turn off all your lights before you turn in or shut the front door.
Check your smoke alarms
In the unlikely event that your lights do cause a fire, make sure you have working fire alarms around your house to alert your family if something catches alight. If you haven’t tested your fire alarms in a while, you may wish to have them checked before this holiday season. It’s also important that you and your family know your home fire escape plan.