As the Christmas holidays mark the start of the summer season, prioritising your safety is important. With all the holiday-themed decorations and lighting displays that light up across your neighbours, or at your own home, keeping your family safe from power shocks or electrical failure shouldn’t be overlooked.
Whether you’re done putting up the lights or still planning for the perfect setup, it’s best to have a comprehensive guide when putting some cheerful and fascinating lights that help set the holiday vibe. Don’t let this festivity become the season for injuries or accidents. We’ve gathered some helpful reminders to ensure your (and your property’s) safety this Christmas.
Consider the following aspects before you buy your lighting decor:
- Do the Christmas lights comply with the Australian Safety Standards?
- Are the product dealers or retailers reputable in the industry?
- Do the products have a regulatory compliance logo that validates their conformity with the state’s regulations?
- Is your home able to accommodate different types of lights (icicle, LED, string, etc.) in one use?
- Do you have enough power points installed? Extension cords? Where are these outlets located?
Note: Confirm with your state or local council if the lighting products are government-approved and recognised by a reputable testing laboratory.
1. Get the right position.
Most problems leading to electrical faults are the result of wrong positioning of decorations like real garlands and trees. Placing them near the areas (e.g. fireplaces) which can spark flames often end up in disaster.
Christmas tree. Keep your Christmas tree away from the fireplace, candles or heaters that may cause fire. The rule of thumb is to place it near the wall corner or anywhere that doesn’t obstruct the walkway.
Note: Live trees are believed to be less fire-resistant than artificial ones. If you’re planning to purchase a new one, consider buying the latter for increased safety.
Wrapping papers and boxes. Gifts surrounding the Christmas tree should at least have a one-metre distance from your heating systems. This prevents papers from getting exposed to flames (once it’s time to open the gifts).
Live garlands. Mounting up a real garland or wreath on the front door or above the fireplace with candles on each side can be a beautiful thing. But when it begins to dry out as time passes, consider disposing the decoration right away as it becomes more susceptible to fire. This reduces the potential risk when exposed to flaming objects.
Drapes and coverings. Candles placed within the reach of the curtains (or even the tip of the drapery) presents the possibility of burning up the entire fabric especially if left all night. It’s wise to have them lit up with no papers or cloth nearby. No wonder it’s recommended to use a timer to remind you to blow the candle before you sleep or when leaving the house.
2. Separate indoor from outdoor lighting.
If there’s one simple rule for electrical safety, it is to separate indoor from outdoor lights. What works inside the house doesn’t guarantee its efficiency in outdoor areas. You don’t want to be installing the wrong light outside and later find out it’s for indoor use, do you? So make sure to check the packaging or manufacturer’s manual (if there is), or better ask the dealer for confirmation.
For indoor lighting:
- Indoor lights are not weatherproofed so make sure they stay inside the comforts of your home.
- These types of lights are less exposed to external elements but not far from children’s access. Keep indoor lights unreachable to ensure their safety and your peace of mind.
- Electrical decorations and appliances make use of circuit breakers and safety switches so it’s important to check those main power devices. Do this before you test the lights.
For outdoor lighting:
- Double check in the package label if the IP rating (indicates the weatherproofing quality of the light) is high (the higher, the better).
- Outdoor lights are expected to have at least IP23 to withstand the environmental conditions.
- See if the wires are properly insulated to avoid short circuits or sparks.
- Metal objects can spark fire so make sure to wrap the lights around non-conductor materials.
- If possible, avoid putting the wires or cords on doorways or floorings to prevent trips or falls.
- Turn the lights off when it’s stormy.
3. Don’t overload circuits.
Like with other functional features, outlets have limitations too. Overloading your power points with many electrical decorations can cause overheating and power shocks.
Plugging in one extension cord to another may result in fire hazards. If possible, avoid using excessive extension leads to minimise the risk of electrical faults.
4. Don’t forget the safety switch.
A safety switch automatically shuts down the power once it detects a suspicious electrical leak or malfunction. One safety switch is good but having two to three separate devices installed is ideal for increased safety. Hire a licensed electrician to plug in your air conditioning, lights and appliances onto the switches.
5. Let there be light.
As you circle the lights around the Christmas tree, check if electrical conductors (metal branches and ornaments, etc) are present to avoid electrocution. Other electrical decorations should also be double checked.
- Read the package label to know the number of wattages, usage (indoor or outdoor use) and other important details.
- For incandescent lights, keep the number of strands connected at minimum. 2 to 3 strands is enough. Beyond that may run the risk of overheating.
- If you’re using an old set of lights, see if there are loose, bared or frayed wires on each lighting strand.
- Check for any malfunctioned bulbs before hanging the lights or turning them on for longer periods.
- Consider the position of the lights when attaching to the windows, doors or roof lines to prevent them from being rubbed, scraped or stood upon by heavy objects.
- Remember to unplug the lighting decor everytime you replace or check each bulb.
- Set a timer for all the electrical decorations to avoid the possibility of overheating. This also saves your house from burning up when you forgot to turn off the lights before sleeping.
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