If you’ve already hung your holiday lights, good for you. You’re one of those people who gets things done. And we presume you did it safely, or you wouldn’t be reading this. But in case you haven’t gotten around to it yet, or would like to see if you did it right, read on.
First Things First
Before heading out, take a moment to calculate the electrical load you’ll be adding and how you plan to deliver it safely.
- Light Strings
Inspect the strings for damage and test the lights. Burnt-out bulbs can be replaced, but don’t try to repair damaged wiring. Discard the string and replace it. There are recycling centers for discarded lights, including Denver Recycles. And make sure all your fixtures are UL rated for safety.
Add up the total wattage of the lights you want to use and make sure the outlet(s) serving them will handle the load. Take into account other lights and appliances that are on that circuit, too, or you may have to reset a breaker every time the TV is turned on. LED bulbs take less power, so you can put more on a single circuit. For details, see our article on Planning Your Holiday Lighting.
- Extension Cords
Make sure your extension cords are UL-rated for outdoor use and will carry the load you’ll ask them to. Inspect them for damage and replace them if you find any or are unsure if they’re right for the job. Remember, size counts when it comes to extension cords, both length and wire gauge. And avoid stringing too many lights together. Their wire is thin gauge, and more than 2-3 strings can overload it, especially larger incandescent bulbs.
Any outdoor wiring should be plugged into GFCI outlets. It’s the law, and it’s there for your protection. Before you hang the lights, plug them in and test the outlet for proper operation. If it fails, call a licensed electrician to repair or replace it.
Hanging Lights Safely
Chances are you’ll be using a ladder to hang your lights, so check it for safety. Inspect for weak rungs or other damage, and look for UL certification and weight capacity.
- Ladder Safety
Make sure your ladder is on a solid, level surface. Don’t stand on the top two rungs and don’t lean outside the width of the legs to keep balance and gravity on your side.
- Hanging Hardware
Don’t use nails or staples to hang your lights. They can damage the insulation and create shorts and fire hazards. Instead, use plastic light clips. They’re cheap, safe, and can be found for all types of attachments, from gutters to roof tiles. Use plastic zip ties for heavier objects or where clips won’t work. For free-hanging objects like wreaths, consider battery-powered lights to eliminate cords.
Need Help? Call a Pro
If you’re concerned about the number or safety of your outdoor outlets, or have any electrical needs over the holiday season, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are just a phone call away. We’ve been serving homeowners and businesses along Colorado’s Front Range since 2000 and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.