How to safely decorate your house for the holidays
Festive kitchen with holiday lights

You know that classic scene in every holiday movie where the decorating goes horribly wrong and they end up blowing a fuse or getting stuck on the roof? Well, we’re here to help you avoid that – because sometimes “just” plugging in your lights doesn’t always work out. We wouldn’t want your holiday spirit to be dimmed by an electrical mishap, so we’ve outlined a few of dos and don’ts of holiday decoration.

Holiday electrical safety “dos”:

  1. Make sure the lightbulbs aren’t touching any other cords, wires, paper, or other material that can easily catch on fire.Tip: With more lights, candles, cooking, etc., it’s a good idea to brush up on common causes of household fires and how to prevent them during the holiday season.
  2. When you’re installing outdoor decorations, watch out for overhead powerlines, and use a proper ladder when hanging lights.
  3. Always use the third prong on a power cord, it’s there to prevent power surges or short circuits.
  4. Turn off all lights and decorations (inside and out) before going to bed and before leaving the house.

Holiday electrical safety “don’ts”:

  1. Don’t plug too many lights or decorations into a single outlet, and try not to overload extension cords – both can overheat and start a fire.Tip: Don’t use any more than three standard-size string or set of lights per extension cord. And remember, extension cords are for temporary use only.
  2. Don’t run extension cords under carpets, through doorways or anywhere they can get damaged. Keep outdoor connections above ground to avoid anyone tripping over them.
  3. This may seem obvious, but don’t put indoor lights outdoors. Always read the label and make sure they’re certified to be used outside.
  4. Avoid using nails or tacks when securing lights – this damages them and makes them more prone to electrical fires.

How does an electrical fire start?

Some common causes of electrical fires include faulty outlets or appliances, extension cords, space heaters and outdated wiring. During the holiday season, there can be more risk for electrical fires with all of the extra lights being plugged in.

Before you spend the time hanging lights across your roof, make sure your home is updated to accommodate your holiday spirit. If your house is over 20 years old, and has an outdated breaker box, the system can get overloaded. If your breaker can’t handle the extra connectors, it could start an electrical fire. If your home has an older electrical system such as knob-and-tube, aluminum wiring, or 60-amp, be mindful that they come with more risk for overheating. Upgrading this to more modern wiring – like copper – reduces the chance of an electrical fire.

Tip: Updating your electrical systems can actually help you save on your insurance.

And lastly, outdated, two-prong outlets should also be taken into consideration, as power extension cords usually have the third “ground” prong that are used to help avoid power surges or short circuits.

Signs of an electrical fire:

When plugging in any lights and decorations, watch for:

  • A burning smell when they’re plugged in or in use
  • If they feel hot to the touch when in use
  • Electrical sparks when you plug them in
  • The breakers tripping or fuses blow

If you notice any of these signs, contact an electrician and ask for their advice on your use of lights and decorations. The holidays can be a busy time, so despite your best efforts to prevent an electrical fire, they can still happen. You should be covered under your home policy so you can rest easy during the holidays should something happen.

Protect your home and the things you love most.