You only have holiday lights up for a few weeks out of the year, but it’s worth the effort to see them light up the night! Unfortunately, strings of holiday lights have the potential to cause electrocution or start a fire if not installed correctly. Use this guide to help you pick the proper cords for your lights display so nothing happens to ruin the holiday spirit.
Cords for Outdoor Holiday Lighting
Hanging lights on the exterior of your home is a tradition many families indulge in. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit! Follow these safety tips when picking a cord and preparing the outlet for an outdoor lights display:
- Use a heavy-duty extension cord rated for outdoor use. These cords are thick and durable, often orange in color.
- Make sure all outdoor outlets are equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This special type of outlet helps prevent electrocution in areas where water and electricity are more likely to meet, including bathrooms, kitchens and outside. You can identify GFCI outlets by the little “test” and “reset” buttons in the face. If you don’t see these indicators, call an electrician to upgrade your outlets.
- Plug an extension cord into a GFCI outlet fitted with a foam gasket and plastic dome to protect the outlet from rain and snow. If your home’s exterior outlets lack these features, upgrading them is easy and inexpensive. A little extra effort ensures optimal electrical safety.
- Plug your holiday lights into the extension cord. Make sure the strands you choose are approved for outdoor use. Look for words like “all-weather” or “outdoors” on the packaging.
- Use appropriate hardware, such as an all-purpose light clip, to secure the lights so they don’t blow around in the wind. Pick a placement that doesn’t put the strands in the way of water draining from the roof and downspouts.
Cords for Indoor Holiday Lighting
Indoor lights are fun to enjoy while snuggled up by the fire. To help increase the safety of your indoor lighting display, follow these tips:
- You can use small gauge cords that are intended for indoor use only, but even inside, it’s better to use a heavy-duty cord for added safety.
- Always check extension cords and light strands for exposed wiring before plumbing them in. Even cords straight out of the box can be damaged, so always double check. If you notice damage, throw the cord or light strand away.
- Avoid twisting and bending extension cords and light strands to keep the insulation around the wires in good shape for years to come.
- Keep pets away from extension cords and light strands. If they’re installed somewhere your pet can reach them, spray the cord with Bitter Apple to discourage chewing.
- Make sure extension cords don’t run under rugs where they could overheat or in front of doorways where someone could trip over them.
Don’t Overload the Circuit
Whether you plan to hang holiday lights inside or outside this season, be kind to your circuits. Some people make the mistake of stringing an entire extravagant display together from a single outlet. Prevent blowing a fuse by drawing power from multiple outlets on different circuits.
A good rule of thumb is to plug in no more than three strands of mini lights per extension cord. You connect more strands together if you use efficient LED lights. Just follow the recommendation on the product packaging.