Christmas lights are one of my family's favorite parts of the season. Like anything else, though, when you're setting up lights, you need to be aware of some safety rules. Here are a few things to remember.
Check to make sure your lights are labeled as waterproof if you live in a wet area and look for the UL seal. The UL seal means that the lights meet the national industry standards of the American National Standards Institute.
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 Dyno or these by HomeAccents. You just stick them in the ground and the lights clip to the top of the stake.
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.
Sure, they're pretty, but don't leave your lights up for too long. Many lights, like smart lights, are not 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.
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.
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 like this Waterproof In-line GFCI or this Portable GFCI.
Never string up a human or animal with the lights that you plug in, even if it's just for a photo. 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 a lot of fun shapes, like snowflakes, candy canes and gumdrops.
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.
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.