/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

20 must-know Christmas light safety tips

Prevent accidents to ensure your season stays merry and bright with these holiday light safety tips.

alina-bradford.jpg
Alina Bradford
img-9127
1 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Safety first and always

Christmas lights make the holiday season bright. We decorate our trees, homes and even cars with them.

These pretty decorations don't come without risk though. Falls, electrocution and shorting are real possibilities. With proper preparation and safe practices, you can avoid those dangerous situations while decorating.

Here are the safety tips you need to know.

20151205-155234
2 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Beware broken bulbs

A missing or broken bulb can lead to shocks, fires or nasty cuts.  

img-8131
3 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

How to fix busted string lights

Here's your full guide to fixing Christmas lights, including fixing bulbs and changing out fuses.

img-8135
4 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Change out old lights

Replace any missing or broken bulbs before you string up your home or tree. Most lights come with replacement bulbs, but you can also buy them at your local home improvement store.

wooden-ladder.jpg
5 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Use the right ladder

If you decorate your home's exterior, you know you need a ladder to reach those high-up spots.

The type of ladder you use matters. Metal ladders conduct electricity, which can lead to electrical shocks.

img-8754
6 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Stick with wood

The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends using a wooden or fiberglass ladder when hanging lights to avoid electrical shocks.  

img-4659
7 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Indoor vs outdoor lights

It's probably a no-brainer to use lights that are labeled as indoors for your indoor lights and ones labeled outdoors for your outdoor lights, but there's more to it.

img-9133
8 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Look for weatherproof lights

Check to make sure your lights are labeled as waterproof if you live in a wet area.

ul-label.jpg
9 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Look for the UL seal

No matter the climate where you live, look for the UL seal.

That seal means that the lights meet the national industry standards of the American National Standards Institute.

cords.jpg
10 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Use the right cord

Always use an extension cord that is rated for outdoor use. Indoor-use extension cords aren't meant to be used in cold or wet environments.

plugs-on-the-ground.jpg
11 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep 'em dry

Don't let your cords sit on the ground, like in this photo. Make sure that the junction where your light cord and your extension cord meet stay out of puddles, damp soil, snow or ice.

img-2964
12 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Hoist them up

You can buy an inexpensive cord protector -- like the Twist and Seal Heavy Duty Cord Protector or the Extension Cord Safety Seal -- to keep your cords dry or plan your light display so that connections are in the air instead of on the ground.

light-stakes.jpg
13 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Elevate the light

Keep your light strands off the ground, too. If you want to make a cool runway effect down your walkway, use light stakes like these by Minetom or these by HomeAccents. You just stick them in the ground and the lights clip to the top of the stake.

img-0082
14 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep holiday light plugs off the ground

You can also make a simple cord protector using a plastic container to keep it off the ground. Just cut a notch in the edge of each side and lay the cord along the notches.

ground-staple.jpg
15 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Prevent tripping hazards

Use anchoring pins or ground staples to secure extension cords to the ground on either side of a walkway to prevent tripping hazards. 

Simply thread the cord through the middle and push the ends of the pin or staple into the dirt. If you have some wire hangers, a pair of pliers and wire cutters lying around, you can make your own staples in a pinch. Just cut 8 inches (20 centimeters) of wire and bend it into a U-shape.

christmas-in-june.jpg
16 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't make your lights a year-long attraction

Sure, they're pretty, but don't leave your lights up for too long. Many lights, including smart lights, aren't meant for long-term use. Be sure to check the light's box for information on just how long you can safely leave your lights up.

plugs.jpg
17 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't overload your outlet

If your lights look like this photo, then you're doing it wrong.

img-9120
18 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep it to 3 strands

The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. If you're using LEDs, most UL-labeled lights will tell you on the package how many strings of lights you can safely string together.

christmas-door.jpg
19 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Don't put cords through doors and windows

Don't run your extension cords through window or door cracks. The cord could become pinched, which can ruin the insulation around the wires and lead to a nasty shock.

20151205-153038
20 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Plug 'em in safely

Only plug your lights into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. These outlets will shut the circuit down if there is too much current flowing through, preventing fires.

gfci-outlet.jpg
21 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Use a GFCI outlet

If your outlet is a GFCI, it will have a reset and test button in the center. If you don't have one, you can purchase a portable GFCI outlet from your home-improvement store. You could try this waterproof in-line GFCI or this portable GFCI.

img-8822
22 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Be careful decorating living creatures

Never string up a human or animal with the lights that you plug in, even if it's just for a photo -- they could get an electric shock or burns if the lights are too hot.

Most places that sell Christmas lights also sell strands of battery-powered lights. These don't get hot and won't potentially electrocute the wearer. Plus, they come in fun shapes. We've seen strands shaped like snowflakes, candy canes and gumdrops.

img-8824
23 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Light your vehicle right

When decorating your vehicle for Christmas parades, make sure to use a power inverter to produce enough power for lights that have a voltage more than 12V. 

Most Christmas lights are 110V AC (alternating-current) and your vehicle can typically only power 12V DC (direct current). The Potek 2000W Power Inverter Three or the Ampeak 1000W Power Inverter are good choices.

img-8816
24 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Car safety

Also, be sure to firmly secure the lights to your vehicle so that they don't drag on the ground and shatter. 

Strong magnets that you can buy from craft stores work well. Just be sure not to drag the magnet across your car's finish when pulling it off. Always pull up to avoid scratches.

img-8820
25 of 25 Alina Bradford/CNET

Keep your vehicle dry

Be sure to only use your car holiday lights when it's dry outside. 110V AC lights can give you a deadly shock if they get wet.

More Galleries

The best games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The best games on Nintendo Switch

41 Photos
The new Genesis G90 looks incredible

More Galleries

The new Genesis G90 looks incredible

6 Photos
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

More Galleries

Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

67 Photos
2021 best new TV shows to watch, stream, obsess about

More Galleries

2021 best new TV shows to watch, stream, obsess about

65 Photos
The 51 best VR games

More Galleries

The 51 best VR games

53 Photos
Best dating apps of 2021

More Galleries

Best dating apps of 2021

13 Photos
The best Christmas movies and where to watch them

More Galleries

The best Christmas movies and where to watch them

18 Photos