Holiday decorating is a tradition that is almost as old as the holidays themselves. For centuries we have celebrated the season with creative decorations that bring about a festive and joyful atmosphere. Today, we have a number of different bright outdoor decorations that light up our homes brightly in the darkness of long winter nights. However, wiring up these decorations isn’t always as simple as it seems. In fact, we frequently see a number of major mistakes that could have some serious negative consequences, including potentially sparking a fire or causing serious injury.
In order to help you decorate your home safely this holiday season, our blog takes a closer look at a few of the most egregious and common mistakes we see and explains how you can avoid them while decorating your property this year.
Using the Wrong Extension Cord
All extension cords essentially do the same thing, so naturally, any extension cord should be fine for getting power to where you need it, right? Far from it. All extension cords may do the same thing, but they are far from created equal. The cheapest cords are generally constructed from less-durable and less-expensive materials. For indoor use, where conditions are controlled and risk is far lower, this is totally fine. However, for outdoor applications, where there is constant exposure to the elements and risk of some sort of damage, you should never use anything other than an outdoor-rated cord.
Outdoor extension cords are generally thicker, protected by more durable shielding that is resistant to punctures, water, and cracking with exposure to UV light. They also typically are three-pronged, which means they can connect your decorations to a grounding circuit in the event of a short or surge. They may cost more to buy, but the cost is well worth it when you consider the added protection they provide for your property.
Stapling Lines to Hang Them
A staple gun is one of the most trusted tools for hanging holiday lights. They’re easy to set up, secure, and capable of withstanding a lot of abuse from the elements. However, they’re also risky. Staples sometimes have jagged edges, and these edges can accidentally pierce the thin plastic shielding that covers the electric lines on many different holiday lights. This causes current to flow into the staple itself, creating a situation where the staple gets hot and potentially sparks a fire in your home.
If you want to use staples, we recommend the hand-hammered, insulated staples that have a small piece of material between the staple itself and what it is holding down. It takes a lot longer to put these up, but you’ll enjoy the security without the risk to your home. Alternatively, hanging a few steel hooks where necessary provides you with an easy way of putting up and taking down your holiday lights without any risk to the lights themselves at all. Plus it’s extremely easy to put lights up and take them down when you’re done this way.
Using Unprotected Outlets
You have a beautiful light display set up in the perfect place for your yard, but you’ve run into a snag—there isn’t a power outlet close by. That is, unless you feed the cord through a window and into a bedroom or other space in your home. Many people simply take this shortcut and call it a day, but what they don’t realize is that the outlet they just tapped into might not be protected.
Any outdoor use of electricity should be protected with a ground fault interrupter, or GFI for short. This is a critical safety device that cuts off the flow of power when it detects a sudden spike in current, usually associated with a short or a ground fault. This makes them a great protection feature for any use of electricity around water, such as in the outdoors where rain and other forms of precipitation are highly possible. Not using a protected outlet could be extremely dangerous in the event of a problem, and that could place your home at risk for fire, as well as potentially creating risk for injury if anyone happens to be around that outlet when the short happens.
To rectify this issue, always make sure every outdoor light is plugged into a properly-protected outlet. This may involve using a long extension cord, but this is far safer than leaving your decorations without proper protection.Have a safe and happy holidays from all of us here at Mel Carr Electric! If you need an electrical repair this season, give us a call at (518) 500-3042 today.