Your Christmas light display is an amazing way to bring the joy of the holidays to your home and to share this special season with your neighbors. However, you should plan carefully to ensure your lighting display is safe for you and your family.
Every year, there are an average of 200 home fires in the U.S. caused by Christmas trees, with 44% of them due to Christmas lights. Sadly, Christmas tree fires cause fatalities more often than other types of fires, with the National Fire Protection Association reporting 6 civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage each year.
We’ve compiled tips to help you ensure a safer holiday season. See below for instructions to set a Christmas light timer to make your holiday light display safer.
Holiday Light Safety Tips
1. Don’t Overload Your Circuits
Calculate the load you will be adding to your circuit when you plan your lighting display. Most residential electrical circuits have a max capacity of 15 to 20 amps, and you should only ever place 80% of the max load on the circuit. First, estimate how many amps are already placed on the circuit. What area of your home does each circuit include? Take into consideration all of the appliances and lighting connected to that circuit. Then, find the watts required for each string of lights by looking at the tag on the cord. Generally, a 15-amp circuit can handle 1800 watts (15 amps x 120 volts).
Electrical failures or malfunctions are factors in one quarter of Christmas tree fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you want to do a more extravagant Christmas light display, call a reputable local licensed electrician to assess the health of your wiring and the max capacity for your circuits. Property damage, injury and fatality caused by Christmas lightings are preventable. Do not let your holiday light display turn into a tragedy.
2. Replace Worn or Damaged Strings of Christmas Lights
Once you have checked that the load on your electrical circuits is correct, take time to go through your boxes of Christmas lights and make sure they’re in good condition. Any cords with damaged or worn casing will need to be replaced. Replace any strands of lights in which the bulb setting is coming loose from the cord. This can allow moisture to enter and cause a fire, or expose you and loved ones to a live wire.
3. Mind the Ladder
Many injuries related to Christmas lights are caused by injury while installing the light display. Secure your ladder to the building with a rope and work with another person to help you with safety measures while installing your lighting display.
4. Keep Your Christmas Tree Watered to Prevent Fire
This video by the National Fire Protection Association demonstrates the importance of keeping your Christmas tree watered. A dry Christmas tree catches fire much more quickly than a well watered tree. The majority of Christmas tree related fatalities began in the living room with a fire started by Christmas lights, an electrical malfunction, or a candle.
5. Keep Your Lights on a Timer
Another way to prevent a Christmas fire is to keep your Christmas lights on a timer. An automatic timer will help you ensure your lights are off while you are asleep and when you leave home. Also, keeping the lights on for shorter periods of time will help you prevent the lights from overheating. An added bonus is that it will save you money on your electric bill. See our previous articles to calculate your Christmas light bill cost and for more tips on saving money on electricity during the holidays.
Christmas Light Safety FAQs
Yes, unfortunately Christmas lights can cause fires and lead to fatalities at a higher rate than other fires. That is why it is important to follow instructions that come on your Christmas lights and avoid overloading your electrical circuits. The National Fire Protection Association reports that 40% of Christmas tree fires were caused by Christmas lights, and Christmas lights cause additional fires in other areas in and around the home. Between 2011 and 2015, one out of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires caused a fatality, compared to an average of one death per 143 reported home fires.
Christmas lights are safe if the electrical wiring and electrical panel in your home are working properly, lights are used according to instructions, electrical circuits are not overloaded, and you follow holiday light safety best practices. It is important to keep your Christmas tree well watered to slow the progression of a fire in the case that your Christmas tree catches on fire.
Yes, it is safe to use outdoor Christmas lights indoors, as long as the voltage required is safe for your electrical circuits. However, you should never use indoor Christmas lights outside your home. They are not designed for exposure to moisture and could start a fire outside the home.
Outdoor Christmas lights that are rated water resistant or waterproof are safe in light rain. If there is water pooled on the ground and your lights are touching it, this is a hazard regardless of the type of lights. Always protect the electrical outlets from rain, and do not touch cords of Christmas lights that are submerged in water.
You should avoid leaving string lights on all night, as they are not designed for continuous use. Overheating of Christmas lights can be a fire hazard.
If your outdoor Christmas lights are continually going out, it could mean that your electrical circuit is overloaded. Call a licensed electrical to help you troubleshoot the source of the problem and correct it, since it could be a safety issue that could cause a fire or electrical emergency. If only some of the lights go it, you likely have a missing or broken bulb on your string of lights.
Smart Electrician Timer Instructions
Using Christmas light timers both indoors and outdoors is a great way to make your holiday safer and cut energy costs. You can pick up a Smart Electrician Timer or another light timer for as little as $10. They are user friendly, and you can make use of them year round. After the holidays, you can use a light timer to give the illusion that you are home while on vacation by keeping your lights on a schedule. Keeping a light on a timer can also make it safer to enter your home at night without wasting money by keeping the lights on all day. See below for instructions to set your Christmas light timer.
Christmas Light Timer FAQs
To set a Smart Electrician Timer:
- First, position the “Time Now” arrow on the timer to the current time.
- Next, select the time you want the lights to go on. For example, 6 P.M. Press down the 6 P.M. button on the front of the timer.
- Next, decide what time you want the lights to shut off. Then press down all the buttons in between those times. For example, press down all buttons between 6 P.M. and 11 P.M.
The buttons are very easy to press down and will continue to work on a daily basis until you change them.
Christmas light timers are safe to use. While any electrical device can malfunction, most Christmas light fires are caused by damaged Christmas lights or overloaded circuits.
Yes, you can put outdoor lights on a timer. Make sure you get a water resistant, weather resistant timer.
Yes, we recommend putting your Christmas tree lights on a timer to prevent overheating or accidentally leaving them on.
It is recommended to turn your Christmas lights off at night so that the lights do not overheat, creating a potential fire hazard.
24 Hour Electrician
If you want to ensure that your electrical wiring and electrical panel are ready for a holiday light display, the professionals at Palmer Electric can help. The licensed electricians at Palmer Electric have been providing electrical safety services for over 65 years. We also provide outdoor lighting installation services. It is much better to prevent an electrical emergency at your home or office than to wait until a crisis to call for professional assistance. Visit our contact page or call us at 877-732-1951 for a free quote.