Safety Is More Than A Bright Idea.
Electrician Tips for Hanging Christmas Lights
‘Twas the month of Christmas and all through the house, signs of the holiday stirring beautifully about. The tree is trimmed, the stockings hung with care, with hopes that the tangled-up roof lights will soon be up there…
At Badger Bob’s Services, our team of electricians loves the science of electricity and everything that goes with it, including Christmas lights. But with the holidays comes an uptick in electric usage, which typically involves running strands of wires throughout the home and property where they would not normally be found. As with anything electrical, this could lead to a hazard.
Pretty… but potentially dangerous.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 150 homes are burned, with 8 people killed and 14 people injured every year due to incorrect use of holiday lights. Don’t let this happen to your home and family.
Before you deck the halls, the windows, the roof, the trees, the bushes and more with loads of lights, consider these Christmas lighting tips from a Badger Bob’s master electrician.
The first thing you need to do is understand the circuitry in your home and what your outlets can and cannot manage. The average receptacle circuits can handle between 15-20 amps. You never want to exceed 20 amps, obviously. We recommend not crossing the 80% threshold, meaning that 16 amps is where you want to stop. With Christmas lights and decorations, most cords and devices come with maximum amperage ratings printed on them.
What’s your wattage?
You can compute how many amps your Christmas lights draw to know whether or not your outlets can handle them any more pressure. You do this by dividing the wattage number by your voltage. For example: You plug a 1000-watt slow cooker into a 120-volt outlet. Rounding up, that’s under 10 amps, but if you can only handle 15 amps, you’re getting close to the safe limit already. If you are planning a big light show, you need to consider what appliances you already have running on the same circuits so that you don’t overburden them.
What’s your extension?
Always use outdoor extension cords when hanging Christmas lights outside, as indoor extension cords are not heavy-duty enough. Also, be sure not to plug in a massive bulk of cord connectors to the outlet, as the weight may draw the plugs away from the outlet and expose the contact terminals, which is a possible fire hazard. It’s always better to be on the safe side rather than taking a chance and overloading a cord. Also keep in mind that the longer the length of cord you use, the more resistance the electricity encounters. As a result, the lower the maximum amount of amperage it can hold. So, if you are plugging four, 50-foot cords together, it will not be able to hold as much as if you were only using a single 50-foot cord.
What’s the time?
To save on your electrical bill, and to be safe, always unplug the lights when you leave the house or turn in for the night. A better alternative is to use a timer than can be set to turn on/off during specific times.
Testing… 1, 2,3… testing.
It’s best to plug in the lights prior to hanging them to ensure they light up. Also, closely inspect each string for damaged or frayed wires, which could cause fires. Throw away any strings that look worn.
Be OK with LED.
As you gear up for the holiday lights, know that you can save electricity costs by using newer LED lights over the standard holiday lights. They need far less electricity to glow. Just to compare: One strand of 50 standard mini lights requires about 20 watts, while one strand of 70 LED mini lights is just under 5 watts. That’s 20 extra lights and a whole lot less power consumption.
The Badger Bottom Line
Know your home’s circuitry and never overload outlets. By having a good understanding of a few fundamentals, your holiday lighting and decorating projects will go off without a hitch. More importantly, tripped breakers and overheated cords will be a thing of Christmases past. If you’re unsure if your electrical systems can handle your light load, or if you need to upgrade your electrical infrastructure, Badger Bob’s Services can help. Our team of experienced electricians is fully accredited, licensed, bonded and insured. All service work is backed by a one-year warranty.