It’s only been a couple of weeks since you put away all of your Halloween decorations (or perhaps, they’re still hanging up outside) and your neighbors have already begun to hang their Christmas lights. Every day you see a new candy cane pop up in front of someone’s mailbox or the shadows of a Christmas tree silhouetted in another neighbor’s window by the light from their television. You might feel a little anxious about having to dig out all of the Christmas lights, unknotting them, testing them, getting on a ladder to hang them up, nearly breaking your neck in the process, and losing your temper when a strand doesn’t work a la Clark Griswald in Christmas Vacation. But relax, by remembering a few holiday-decorating safety-tips, things should go smoothly.
One of the biggest dangers posed by Christmas lights is that of a frayed or damaged cord. Exposed wires can cause electrical shock or even fires, so be sure you put your eyes on every inch of the cord before you plug it in. While this may seem like a daunting task, it really isn’t if you take things one strand at a time. As you unwind the cord, run it through your hands and check the wiring for tears, as well as ensuring each socket has a light in it (usually the strand won’t work otherwise) with no signs of being burnt out or damaged. After you have checked the strand, plug it in to be sure it turns on. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to have that strand running along your roof, only to find that it doesn’t work when you’re done placing the lights? I’ve never made this mistake before… Honest!
That brings me to the most obvious tip when hanging lights- make sure they all work before you even start hanging them. If you begin hanging lights and then come across a burnt out strand, you will have to put everything down, head to the store to buy a new set, and then come back only to find another set of lights that isn’t working further down the line. Go ahead and test all of the lights before you start decorating. It’s much easier to have everything ready ahead of time, rather than having to start over, pause, or take shortcuts because you don’t feel like running to get more lights. Also, I recommend getting all the tools you need to hang the lights ahead of time. Try using these or something similar to assist with hanging the lights from your roof or gutter; they are much easier and safer to use than a hammer and nails. The insulated clips are also safer than nails or staples, as they do not become electrified if they somehow breach the insulation of the strand of lights.
There are a few other more obvious things that you should not forget about when hanging Christmas lights. First off, be sure to tape your extension cords or any excess length of cable to the ground to prevent someone from tripping. A broken neck is no way to spend the holidays! If your lights are older, make sure they have fused plugs. This will prevent fire-causing sparks if something short circuits. I also recommend taping the plugs where they connect to prevent moister from getting in. You should also consider elevating the plugs off of the ground in case of ice or snow. It might also be a good idea to make sure that the outlet you are using to plug your lights in is a GFCI, as it will shut off the power to the lights if it detects current flowing through water or a person. The most obvious tip I can give you for decorating safety is to not take risks. Don’t get up on your roof if you’re not 100 percent sure that you can get back down. It is also very important that you have someone help you any time you are using a ladder while placing lights. Absolutely do not ever hang Christmas lights on your roof alone!
There are some other, smaller, things that I recommend doing to make your holiday decorating go a little smoother. First off, if you have wooden decorations, wear gloves when carrying them out of your garage and placing them. Sometimes they can be full of splinters around the edges. Always use care when going in and out of your attic if this is where you store your decorations. Every year it seems like I hear about someone in my family or one of our friends falling through the attic while trying to retrieve something. Also, use care when bringing stuff down from the attic. Don’t take shortcuts by pulling down multiple items at a time, just take it slowly and no one will get hurt. When taking down your decorations (yes, the holidays leave us as quickly as they arrive), take care to do it in an organized fashion. You are only making your next holiday season that much more difficult by rushing the cleanup process. Label all of your boxes and wrap up all of your cords neatly. Save all of the clips you used, they will come in handy when the holidays show up again in 10 or 11 months.
So there, take a deep breath, relax, put on a warm coat and go make your house look awesome!