Check the bulbs, Rusty: How to light up safely over the holiday season

Dec 10, 2015, 12:47 PM

Decking the halls with holiday lights definitely adds joy to the season, but you should always follow basic electrical safety rules so that you avoid fires.

In buying new lights, look for lighting that has been tested for safety by a nationally recognized organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories. A label on the strings or a box will indicate that is the case. You should only buy your lights from trusted retailers.

As you unpack older lighting equipment for reuse this year, look for loose or frayed wires, loose or cracked bulbs and similar defects. Replace older lighting strings that have these defects.

Make sure that the electric panel at your house can handle lots of lighting displays indoors and out. You might even add an outlet to a breaker box so that circuits do not trip whenever lighting decorations are turned on. If you need electrical wiring changes to handle your decorations, hire a licensed and insured electrician. Electrical work should not be a do-it-yourself learning experience.

Water-proof or water-resistant lights should be used outdoors, as well as extension cords designed for the elements. Be sure to keep the plugs protected and dry.

You want to be able to plug all your lights and displays into GFCI outlets. Those letters stand for ground fault circuit interrupter, meaning the circuit will shut down if there are electrical problems.

Follow all the directions given on lights. Don’t string together more than three standard-size sets of lights. Don’t overload outlets or extension cords.

Always turn off or unplug lights on Christmas trees indoors when you’re sleeping or when you leave the house. Put all outdoor lighting on a timer that turns off decorations at your usual bedtime.

When you install those lights outside, use a ladder made from wood, fiberglass or plastic instead of metal. That will reduce the risk of shock from electricity.

For more tips, help and information for your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at, Arizona’s most trusted referral network.

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Check the bulbs, Rusty: How to light up safely over the holiday season