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Advice about Safe Outdoor Seasonal Lighting

christmas-decorations-on-treePutting up holiday lighting in December is a time-honored tradition that can range from a few strings of white lights to brighten up the house front from the street, to complex, professional designs aimed to win contests and which are often visible from low-earth orbit.

Here in Los Angeles, light decorations have a special function: we don’t get snow here during December, and taking trips to the beach on Christmas Day isn’t unheard of. Without the natural decoration of snow, putting up outdoor holiday lights is a way to make our streets look more festive and more like a place that does have snow. It’s a great bargain: that holiday touch without all that cold and having to shovel the driveway each morning.

However, no matter how much lighting you plan on putting up for your house to brighten the season, we urge you to take safety precautions to avoid problems like shorting out your electrical system, creating tripping hazards, or triggering an electrical fire. The movie Christmas Vacation may be comic exaggeration—but not by that much.

Throw out damaged light strings

Take a look at each of the strings of lights before you hang them up. You’re looking for any places where the insulation may have worn off, or sockets that have broken. These are fire hazards, so throw the string away. We don’t recommend using the same light string for more than 5 years, in general.

Don’t leave any sockets empty!

We advise you plug in any light string before hanging it to test if the bulbs are working. If you find any burnt -ut ones, replace them. Don’t take out the light and leave the socket empty, because the socket still warms up when the lights are on, and that can mean potential fire problems.

Use UL-approved hangers to attach lights

One of the old ways of getting lights attached fast to a house exterior was to use a power stapler or nails. This is not a good idea—it’s a major fire hazard! You can buy special hangars for the lights that have UL-approvals for use outdoors. UL-certification means the product has undergone extensive UL testing for safety.

Only use UL-approved lighting

This is an important part of purchasing outdoor lighting. Plenty of holiday lights on shelf displays are not suited for outdoor use. Make sure that any lights you purchase are prominently marked on their box as outdoor lights. Take the extra cautious step of looking for the UL-approval for outdoor use. Don’t just grab and go!

Keep the lights on a timer

A timer that shuts off the lights after a certain time is a good idea so you won’t forget to shut them off.

Take the lights down after New Year’s

Yes, it’s a chore to take the lights down and it’s also a sad sign that the holidays are over. But leaving the lights up for more than 90 days puts them at risk of suffering from damage—the kind that may plague you the next time you put them up.

If you’re looking for the assistance of professional electricians in Los Angeles, CA or the surrounding areas (including the San Fernando Valley), you can trust it all to us. Our electricians hold the Technician Seal of Safety and are NATE-certified and factory trained.

Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical has served Los Angeles since 1990.

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