It’s that time of year again. Time to put up the holiday lights. You’ve come up with a plan as to exactly how you want them to look and where they will go. You locate the boxes, hoping they aren’t a tangled mess. You’ve tested the outdoor outlet GFCIs to make sure they’re still working. Have you forgotten anything else? Probably. Let’s go over what you need to do to make sur your holiday lights will be safe this year.
How Do You Do Christmas Lights Safely?
1. Connecting light strings. The maximum number of incandescent mini lights that can be plugged into a single outlet is 600, regardless of the number of strings. A maximum of 210 watts can be connected using a 22-gauge wire and a maximum of 420 watts can be connected when using 20-guage wiring. You should always check the instructions to see if the fuses on your strands are designed for more or less.
2. Outdoor Christmas lights. You need to make sure that the lights you plan to use outdoors will stand up to the elements. Check the UL outdoor ratings of the light you’re planning to use. We all know water and electricity don’t mix so make use you only use UL-rated lights outside. These can also be used inside. Just because the wire is coated in plastic doesn’t make it safe to use outside. All the parts need to damp- and temperatures proof to ensure safety.
3. Extension cords. The only extension cords that can be used outdoors need to be UL-rated for outside use. These extension cords are made with material that can stand up to the elements. Cords for indoor use can short if they get wet and cause damage to your outlets and lights. You also need to check the power limits of the cords you’re planning to use.
4. Electrical outlet safety. Outdoor outlets need to have GFCIs (ground-fault circuit interrupters) to protect against electrocution. These outlets will immediately shut off is there is a change in electrical flow. This can happen with wet snow and electricity. Test these outlets before you start working on your holiday lights and do not overload any outlets.
5. Number of holiday lights to plug in. It might be tempting to overload one outdoor outlet with multiple adaptors. This is a bad idea. Outlets have limits when it comes to the power they can handle. If you over load them, you can cause overheating and potentially a fire. Most outlets are rated for 15 or 20 amps that can support a max of 1800 watts and 2400 watts respectively. This goes for indoor and outdoor outlets-. Electricians would advise you not to go above 80% of this capacity. So, 1440 for a 15-amp circuit and 1920 for a 20-amp circuit.
Additional Holiday Light Safety Tips
• Replace any broken bulbs before you get started.
• Keep all connections off the ground.
• Make sure outdoor lights are fastened securely to protect them.
• Avoid puncturing light strings when fastening them. This can damage them and compromise the wet-rated performance.
• If you’re connecting power from the inside, make sure the cords aren’t getting pinched by door or window to prevent cord damage.