Before you start hanging up your outdoor Christmas lights and decorations, we’ve a few simple dos and don’ts to help you decorate your property safely.
They’ll help you avoid having to eat cold turkey sandwiches by candlelight on Christmas Day, because your outdoor wiring blew the house’s electrical supply.
1) Don’t use a stapler gun to fix trailing lights around your home.
Staple guns are notorious for piercing plastic covering and shorting the exposed wires within. We don’t want any fires do we? We don’t want hours spent looking for the point of the short to fix it either, nor do we want anybody getting electrocuted. Pulling apart a twisted flex to thread over a nail or screw head should also be avoided for the same reasons.
2) Make sure you use the correct extension lead.
This isn’t the driest time of the year so don’t be tempted to make do with the old extension lead you use for cutting the grass. Use only approved exterior extension cables. You should also be using proper exterior power sockets to plug into – taking a wire through the window or door can lead to the wire chaffing and rubbing until it’s bare and shorting.
3) Watch your step.
Hanging festive lights and decorations usually involves climbing a tree or scaling the walls to the roofline. Even a moderately high bush can present an opportunity to fall and cause yourself a serious injury. Make sure you use a proper ladder, get someone to steady it at the bottom – especially if you’re siting it on the garden to reach a tree etc.
4) Badger traps.
Think carefully about cable routing – avoid crossing the garden or paths where people may walk – that includes ankle as well as neck height. Don’t rely on sticky tape covering a cable either as the cold and damp will render it pretty useless within a few days. Be especially careful if you’re still cutting grass or trimming hedges etc.
5) Is it secure?
Check any lighting or decorations are secure and that includes being able to ‘hang on in there’ during a storm. The last thing you want is lights and decorations swinging across the street or blowing around so violently that they tear down the rest of your decorations – (not to mention the possibility of damaging your house – roof and fascias, even windows and cladding!).
Check your fixing points are also good and secure. Some of these decorations are quite heavy. Simply relying on the same nail or screw you used last year isn’t enough. Check old fixings haven’t worked loose or rusted through before using them.
6) Connecting cables.
Using the old ‘twisted together ends and a bit of electrical tape’ method really isn’t going to cut it when you’re extending cables outside. The weathers soon going to get in and take out the power and probably many of your lightbulbs with it. Use proper outdoor extension kits.
And whilst talking about cables – check the cables or flex aren’t knotted before you hang them.
7) Surge protection.
All your exterior lights should be plugged in to the mains via an earth leakage unit – like the ones you plug your electric garden tools into. That way, if weather does get in or there’s an exposed bit of wiring – (bulb holders are notorious for springing leaks and wired can easily chaff and rub when strung through trees), then only that set of lights will be affected and not the whole house.
8) Replace blown bulbs.
Many festive lights rely on there being a full complement of working bulbs in the chain. By running strings of lights etc with bulbs blown, you may be increasing the loading on that socket. A blown bulb is also an excellent spot for the weather to creep into the wiring with the potential to blow a lot more bulbs.
9) Spare a thought for the environment.
Don’t forget to turn off your festive garden decorations when you go to bed – or better still, why not switch them off earlier than that. Just 1 hour less will have saved you nearly two days worth of electricity by the beginning of January.
Have you considered buying solar powered decorations? Like patio and garden lights, these charge from the sun during the day and light up at night.
10) Have a torch handy.
If the worst does happen and your light display causes all your home’s lighting to blow. Make sure you can find a torch easily in the dark. Make sure said torch has good batteries or is fully charged. Know where the fuse box or isolator is located and what to do to restore power. If in any doubt, consult a qualified electrician before attempting any repair or restoration. Top tip: Many mobile phones provide enough light to find your way by (cautiously) – smart phones may have a torch ‘app’.
Have fun and stay safe decorating your home this Christmas.
photo credit: louise docker