What Are the Biggest Holiday Decorating Mistakes to Steer Clear Of? My whole family loves Christmas, and we typically go all out with holiday decorating. And now, with all the...
Holiday Decorating: Top 10 Electrical Mistakes to Avoid
By Mike Holmes
Monday, November 13th, 2023 @ 4:45pm
What Are the Biggest Holiday Decorating Mistakes to Steer Clear Of?
My whole family loves Christmas, and we typically go all out with holiday decorating. And now, with all the grandkids, it’s even more fun. The lights, the colours, the carols, the decorations, the tree, the food, and let’s not forget Santa!
However, it’s also a time of year when we always hear of unfortunate accidents that can end in tragedy and destroy families. There are lots of house fire incidents. You can prevent them for the most part.
Here are some holiday decorating safety tips you need to remember to keep your family safe!
#1 – Hanging Outside Decorative Lighting
My family and I, we go all out with our outdoor seasonal lights. Many homeowners hire professional decorating companies to set up the decorations. However, if you do it yourself, please do it safely.
Check for overhead power lines before hanging any lights or decorations on your trees or outside your house. Keep a minimum of 3 meters away from powerlines when using a ladder or extension pole. And always have a spotter.
Also, use the proper clips when securing lights and decorations. Do not use staples or nails, as they can damage electrical cords if punctured.
Only Use Outdoor Lights for the Outdoors
Always make sure you are using certified outdoor-rated light strings, bulbs, etc. Do not use indoor lights for outdoor light.
Read the package instructions, and never exceed the recommended wattage. If you do, the result can be a fire hazard, and no one wants a disaster to happen.
I also know this is a no-brainer but never remove the third prong on plugs. This “grounding pin” prevents shock in case of electrical equipment failure.
Bulbs Should Not Touch Things and stick to One Type of Bulb
If you’re not using LED lights watch out because incandescent bulbs tend to get warm. So stay safe and ensure the bulbs don’t touch supply cords, wires, cloth, paper, or other materials.
Also never mix different types of light bulbs. Mixing incandescent and LED light strings on the same circuit can lead to overheating and safety hazards. Stick to one type of lighting to ensure proper compatibility.
Light Strings Times Three, No More!
If you need to use a long string of lights, ensure they can go the distance and only connect up to three light strings together if needed. That goes for both outdoor and indoor light strings.
#2 – Inspect Family Loved Vintage Decorations
Many homeowners have “vintage” decorations and love to use them every year. If electrical, ensure they are safe to use, and the wires are not frayed or damaged. Pets and rodents can chew or damage electrical cords.
Never plug in a damaged cord —it could be an electric fire or shock waiting to happen. It’s safer to replace or have them as keepsakes than risk a potential fire hazard.
#3 – Certification Marks
Now, I’m all about doing things right, and that includes checking for approved Canadian certification marks. These badges are like the gold standard for electrical products, including lights, inflatables, extension cords and more.
All decorations need to have an approved label such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL). If not, they have not been tested for safety and could be hazardous.
Look for these certification marks on the product label – they mean your decorations have met some serious safety standards. It’s peace of mind you can’t put a price on. If you find a decoration without an approved Canadian certification mark, you should return it to the retailer.
Visit ESAsafe.com to see the full list of certification marks approved in Canada.
#4 – Seasonal Inflatables
Inflatables are great! Over the years I’ve seen more and more homeowners putting them up on their driveways and going all out for the holidays and I love that!
If you’re getting ready for the festivities and bringing out last year’s decorations, make sure to examine it for any damage.
However, if you’re looking to up your game and buy an inflatable this year make sure you’re buying it from trusted retailers. You don’t want to end up with an unsafe item, right? So stick to the well-known shops, and you’ll be on the right track to festive success.
I understand you need to keep the power supply going to your outdoor inflatable decorations. No one wants a saggy Santa or Snowman, but make sure you do it safely. Most manufacturers recommend unplugging your inflatables after running them for eight hours. Doing this will help ensure the blower motor lasts longer.
Plug In Your Decorations In GFCI Outlets
Ensure any electrical products are plugged into a GFCI outlet. Failure to use GFCI outlets for outdoor decorations can result in electrical shocks.
Read more about outdoor safety from the Electrical Safety Authority here.
#5 – Keep Outdoor Connections Safe
Keep outdoor connections above ground and out of puddles; don’t run them across driveways or walkways. If you do, ensure they are covered using a cable guard – this will prevent the cord from being damaged or a tripping hazard.
Use Outdoor Receptacle Covers
Ensure your outdoor receptacle has a special cover to help protect it against the elements even when a cord is left plugged in. This cover protects the cord and outlet from the elements.
Every time we install outdoor receptacles we make sure that it is a GFCI receptacle and that we have an Eaton weatherproof cover installed to protect the outlet and anything plugged in from the elements.
#6 – Go Dark When You Go to Bed
Your home may not look so pretty, but according to the ESA, it’s best to always turn off all your holiday lights and decorations when you go out or go to bed. Unattended decorations can pose a significant safety risk.
Consider Smart Lights, Switches, And Receptacles
Smart lighting is controlled remotely using a wireless connection and a smartphone app. You can set time and schedule your lights based on your lifestyle and activities. You can sync your lights with the sunrise and sunset, add dimers, and change the colour of your lights or a grouping of lights on more than one circuit.
I love the Philips Hue smart lights we’ve been installing. They offer more than 16 million colour mixes and pre-set themes for your selection. Imagine how much fun you can have with them during festive seasons.
You also have the ability to manage everything from your phone and program it to automatically turn on as soon as it gets dark. Isn’t that fantastic!
Another alternative is to get smart switches, receptacles and dimmers. Eaton has an awesome range of products and we’ve been working with them for years so we trust them to Make It Right!
The Eaton Wi-Fi dimmers can be controlled by voice. They are great for families with kids. They are also great for people with limited mobility or for those who plan to age in their home. These smart voice dimmers with Alexa Built-In have a smart speaker embedded into the dimmer. This allows homeowners to control lights and use voice assistance from a single device.
#7 – Don’t Cover Extension Cords
When decorating inside your home, remember not to run extension cords under carpets or rugs, through doorways or in places where they can be damaged by furniture. Also, ensure they are safely out of the way and do not cause a tripping hazard.
Keep Decorations Away From Flammable Materials
Don’t place decorations near flammable materials like curtains, drapes, or upholstered furniture. Maintain a safe distance to prevent potential fire hazards.
#8 Ladder Safety
Climbing ladders to hang decorations can lead to accidents. Make sure to use a sturdy, stable ladder and follow safety guidelines when working at heights.
Check for overhead power lines before using a ladder to put up decorations, or when hanging lights or decorations on trees.
Most importantly, When decorating your home, make sure you properly position your ladder. If you’re overextending to reach what you want, climb down and reposition it in a safer spot.
Pro Tip: When climbing your ladder always observe the 4-1 rule. For every four feet you go up, bring the ladder out another foot.
#9 – Check Smoke Alarms
Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires during the holidays. Remember, keep surfaces clear and smoke detectors installed on every floor.
Make sure your smoke alarms are working correctly and have fresh batteries. This is an important and easy step to make sure your home is safe during the holiday season.
#10 – Don’t Overload Your Circuits
Don’t overload your circuit when plugging in your Christmas lights and decorations. Avoid plugging too many lights and decorations into an outlet. Overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire. Be smart and avoid the risk of electrical fires!
Here’s another pro tip —consider installing a surge protector. Surge protectors can be installed either outside or within an electrical panel or load center. They are designed to detect voltage spikes and redirect them through your home’s grounding system. This is especially important if you live in an area prone to thunderstorms.
We install an Eaton surge protector in every single home we work on, even if we are not touching the electrical work in that house. It’s premium protection and peace of mind for homeowners.
Not Sure If Your System Can Handle The Load? Hire A Licensed Electrical Contractor
Doing some upgrades before the holidays? Remember DIY projects are great, but it’s important to hire a Licensed Electrical Contracting (LEC) business for any electrical work you do.
An electrician is a specialist in their field. A licensed electrical contractor is qualified to assess your electrical system and provide recommendations for improvements depending on your demands and way of life. Avoid doing electrical work yourself; most homeowners lack the equipment, know-how, and safety precautions necessary to complete the task.
Licensed electrical contractors are also knowledgeable about the Canadian Electric Code and National Electrical Code, depending on whether you’re in Canada or the US. You want to hire someone that you trust is fully informed on the current codes.
I recommend looking for an electrician who has affiliations with a trusted manufacturer. For example, Eaton has a network of certified electrical contractors who are trained by Eaton on their specific products.
In Ontario, ask for the electrician’s ECRA/ESA license number – it should appear prominently on their truck and any additional paperwork, like an invoice, estimate, or business card. Also, take the extra step to verify it with ESA, to avoid hiring an unlicensed contractor.
BONUS TIP: PACKING UP YOUR HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
Take down decorations when the holidays are over. They aren’t designed for year-round use and can deteriorate over time. After the holiday season, store your decorations in a cool, dry place, away from extreme temperatures, to extend their lifespan and safety.
Opt for transparent, plastic containers instead of natural substances like cardboard boxes. You wouldn’t want your ornaments to succumb to dampness and mould-induced damage.
Customizable Garage Organization Systems
Using garage organization solutions like NewAge Products garage organizers can simplify the safe storage of your festive decorations and lights. I love how they have lots of great solutions and accessories to help store all your different items and the best part is it can be customized to fit your space.
Pro Tip: Prior to buying anything, take the time to measure the dimensions of your garage. It is crucial to take note of the size and positioning of any windows, doors, switches, or outlets, as well as the amount of space your car occupies.
Once you have gathered all the necessary measurements, you can arrange a meeting with a specialist from NewAge who will guide you through a live demonstration of the various product options available, enabling you to make an informed decision. Following this, they will develop a 3D plan to help you visualize your garage and select colours and styles that complement your existing decor.
The holidays are a time of laughter and celebration, and spending time with family and friends. So, make sure it’s a safe one and remember these holiday decorating electrical safety tips.