Christmas Light Safety – Time for Some Regulation?
I’ve begun strolling around the neighbourhood looking at Christmas lights. Some people have way to much time on their hands – but thanks for your efforts to make Xmas a special time. I try to take the Fun Policeman Hat off after 5pm but looking at the dodgy electrical set ups in some front yards I cant help but think someone is going to be killed or that Electrical Safety Inspectors would have a field day if they inspected domestic Xmas light setups! Should they be doing that?
Here is some useful info we have gleaned from the net:
‘Tragic accident’ killed man hanging Christmas lights, widow says
See the story here: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news/local/article/634962–tragic-accident-killed-man-hanging-christmas-lights-widow-says
FACT SHEET From Fire Protection Association Australia
Christmas Lights Safety Tips
By Adam Verwymeren – Published December 06, 2011 – http://www.networx.com/article/christmas-lights-safety-tips
A house lit up with Christmas lights is a beautiful sight to behold. But stringing lights across your roof and around your home can be a real safety hazard if you’re not careful. So before you flip the switch to dazzle friends and family with your spectacular light show, take a few moments to run through a quick safety checklist.
● Before you string up a single strand of lights, carefully check them for cracked cords, frayed ends or loose connections.
● The combination of shorts in electrical lights and a tinder-dry tree can be deadly.There are 250 Christmas tree fires and 14 related deaths each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. So keep your tree well-watered. Not only will it stay fresh and green, but it might also keep your house from burning down.
● Modern lights have fused plugs, preventing sparks in case of a short circuit. Ditch old strands of lights that don’t have fuses and get a set of newer, safer lights.
● If bulbs have burned out, replace them right away, but make sure you use the correct wattage bulbs.
● Water and debris can get into outdoor sockets, so make sure outdoor lights are plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet to reduce the risk of shorts and shocks.
● Keep an eye on extension cords, as they can occasionally overheat. Just touch-test the cord. If it’s hot, unplug it.
● Don’t use tacks, nails or screws to hang lights, which can pierce the cable and become electrified. Use insulated hooks instead.
● When running extension cords along the ground, make sure to elevate plugs and connectors with a brick to keep snow, water and debris out of the connections.
● Tape down any ground-level extensions cords to prevent people from tripping over them.
● Check to make sure lights have been rated by a testing laboratory. You can see a list of federally recognized labs on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s website.
● Not all lights are rated for outdoor use. Indoor lights often have thinner insulation, which can become cracked and damaged when exposed to the elements outdoors. So make sure the ones you string up on the house belong out there.
● Don’t leave Christmas lights running when you go to bed at night or when you leave the house.
● When you put your lights back into storage after the holidays, make sure to put them in a well-sealed container to prevent possible water damage and to block hungry rodents looking to turn the cords into lunch. My final advice? Be careful with ladders.
Christmas Light Alternatives And Safety
When installing your Christmas lighting consider safety, try not to use double adapters, plug your Christmas lighting in a power point per power plug. You may consider installing addition power outlets to overcome a shortage of power outlets . If excessive power adapters are used this could cause a potential power overload on the power points their plugged into and damage your power points and possibly cause a fire. For more information visit our electrical Powerboard page.
Check to see if your home has a Safety Switch, Safety Switches will detect faulty wiring and protect you from electrocution if you are unaware of damaged leads and Christmas lighting. If unsure how to test a safety switch or have never been test book an appointment with our electricians to test your safety switch installation.
External power points should be used on the outside of your home for external Christmas lighting and bud lighting. Normal internal power outlets are not suited in exposed weather conditions.
Safety Advice from Electricians –
Here are some tips to follow when using and installing Christmas lighting.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding assembly, installation and globe replacement.
- Do not use damaged or faulty Christmas lights. Check that they are in good condition before using them each Christmas.
- Never use Christmas lights outdoors unless they are specifically designed for such use. Similarly make sure extension cords are only suitable for outdoor use.
- Do not cover or modify decorative lights.
- Always switch off and unplug Christmas lights when unattended or when watering a Christmas tree.
- Observe and monitor the correct operation of your decorative lights when unpacked and initially used.
- In households with infants and young children, consider using extra-low-voltage (less than 50 Volts) decorative lights supplied from an approved transformer.
There are many Christmas lights on the market Today and choosing them can be tricky. If you purchased Christmas lights or Decorative lighting from overseas, market places be aware of unapproved lighting products some passable signs to look for are
- Light sets designed for (overseas) voltages less than 230 Volts (normal supply voltage in Australia is currently 240 Volts)
- Plugs incompatible with Australian socket outlets and power points.
- Dangerously thin electrical insulation on the flexible leads, try to compare them to your existing leads in your home for a simple observation.
- When replacing globe and bulbs be aware, incorrectly rated globes may overheat and cause surrounding materials to catch fire.
- Inadequately attached cords that may pull out of lamp holders and expose live cables.
Use safe Christmas lights
Important safety tips
Before you start decorating, there are some important safety tips to be aware of, to ensure your Christmas doesn’t end in disaster.
- Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors.
- Buy Australian-compliant Christmas lights (be wary of purchasing non-compliant lights over the internet from overseas).
- Check old Christmas lights before re-using them.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Don’t alter or modify lights.
- Ensure all lights, extension leads and power boards are suitable for the intended use (e.g external or internal).
- Test your safety switch and smoke detector to make sure they are working.
- Keep Christmas lights out of reach of children.
- Always turn off decorative lighting before going to bed or leaving your house.
Lights suitable for indoor use should only be used indoors. This will be indicated on the packaging or on the light itself (usually on a tag near the plug).
It’s not safe to use indoor lights outdoors as they don’t have the additional weatherproof ratings.
- Test your safety switch and smoke detector before setting up your lights.
- Keep lights and other electrical appliances away from children.
- Turn your lights off before going to bed or leaving your house.
- If you have a living Christmas tree, switch off and unplug lights when watering the tree.
Only use outdoor lights outdoors. Indoor lights are not safe to use outside (even on verandas). Outdoor lights meet additional safety standards.
Outdoor Christmas lights will have an IP rating (e.g. IPX3, IP23, IP44), this number shows how weatherproof the light is – the higher the numbers, the better the weatherproof rating. Outdoor equipment must have at rating of least IP23.
Some Christmas lights suitable for outdoors require the transformer (plug) to be located indoors and away from any effects of weather. Some may only be suitable for temporary use outdoors. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Consider using solar powered lights, LED or extra-low-voltage lights (12V or 24V), as these are the safest options to prevent electric shock and prevent fires from over-heating.
The tips below can help keep your outdoor Christmas light display safe.
- Secure outdoor lights to avoid damage in wind or storms.
- Always turn off outdoor decorative lighting in rainy or stormy weather.
- Flood lights, halogen lights and other high powered lights can become very hot. Keep them away from anything that might catch fire.
- Avoid passing electrical leads through doorways and windows where leads might be damaged.
- Don’t run electrical leads over walkways or driveways where they might be damaged.
- All outdoor connections must be weatherproof.
- Don’t put Christmas lighting around or above swimming pools or have leads lying in water or wet areas.
- Avoid wrapping lights around sharp metal objects which may damage the wires.
- Be aware that using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits.
Check your old Christmas lights
Before using last year’s Christmas lights, unravel them and look at the plug, leads and lamp holders to check there are no exposed wires or obvious damage. If you have any concerns about the safety of the Christmas lights get them checked out by a licensed electrical contractor.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions and safety warnings.
- Do not alter or modify any lighting equipment.
- Test Christmas lights before installing them.
- Make sure electrical leads are safe – never use a damaged lead.
- Unwind all extension leads to avoid overheating.
- Ensure all lights, extension leads and powerboards are suitable for what you are using them for.
- Make sure the power is off when putting up your Christmas lights or changing light bulbs.
- Check your old lights haven’t been part of a product recall.
Check your Christmas lights have insulated pins. Electrical appliances, including Christmas lights sold after 2006 must have insulated pins. If it does not have insulated pins then the Christmas lights do not meet the latest safety requirements.
Buying Christmas lights
As with all electrical equipment and appliances, Christmas lights must meet safety standards and are required to have an Australian certificate of approval before they can be sold in Queensland.
Buy your lights from a reputable dealer who will know the electrical equipment safety requirements for selling Christmas lights in Queensland.
Look for an approval number (e.g. Q12345; V12345; N12345; NSW12345) or the regulatory compliance mark logo. These indicate compliance with Australian Standards. These marks must be on the Christmas lights and are normally found on the packaging, plastic tag near the plug, or on the transformer body if it is an extra low voltage type.
Beware of buying Christmas lights over the internet from overseas
Beware of buying Christmas lights online particularly from overseas. Other countries have different safety standards and the products sold in these countries may be unsafe for use in Australia.
Electrical equipment sold in Australia must meet strict electrical safety standards.
Buying second hand
Second hand Christmas lights should be checked by a licensed electrician to make sure they are safe to use.
Safety requirements for Christmas lights have changed in recent years, some second hand lights may not meet the latest safety requirements.
These tips can help you set up your Christmas decorations safely.
- Install a safety switch and test it before setting up your lights. If you don’t have a safety switch, use a portable safety switch.
- Using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits.
- Use power boards fitted with over-load protection.
- Avoid using double adaptors or piggy back plugs.
- Use factory-made extension leads or those made by a licensed electrical contractor.
- Check decorative lighting and all leads for damage. Never use a damaged lead.
- Always unwind extension leads to avoid possible overheating.
- Use extra-low voltage outside, such as LED or solar lights.
- If you must, use outdoor electrical connections make sure all electrical connections are weatherproof. You can buy weatherproofing accessories to do the job.
- Use decorative lights for the right purpose – outdoor lights for outdoor areas, indoor lights for indoor areas.