Gabe’s tips for decorating your home safely for the holidays

Gabe’s tips for decorating your home safely for the holidays
Firefighters say Christmas lights can be a fire hazard

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As Andy Williams and countless others have said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Holiday cheer and bright displays illuminate the plentiful darkness that the late fall brings. While some didn’t hesitate the day after Halloween, the more patient among us are digging out boxes of decorations.

If you haven’t done so yet, you should have some dry days this week to get your displays up and running, but there is much to be cautious about, especially if you’re a “Griswold" kind of decorator. (There’s nothing wrong with that if you are!)

So, as you deck those halls and string up those displays, here are some tips to keep in mind. These should minimize the risk of fire or damage to your belongings and give you a little more peace of mind this holiday season.

  • First, before hanging, check your stock. Look for broken bulbs and frayed wires that could not only short out a display but pose a shock hazard. If you have those old fashioned, incandescent bulb strands, consider investing in LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). They use less electricity, and won’t overheat, helping to eliminate a potential fire hazard right away. LEDs also tend to last longer than incandescent bulbs, which means a bigger bang for your buck as the years progress. The same evaluation goes for things that use electricity outdoors, like inflatable displays. (Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be doing one this year, unless the powers that be give me the OK.)
  • Second, avoid using nails, staples or any unshielded metal. These can damage light strands while hanging, and could conduct electricity if it meets an exposed and powered wire. Using plastic hooks or coated nails and tacks provides better insulation and may be easier to remove once the holidays are over. For our Courtyard fence, I’ll be using zip ties, as our engineers have amassed quite the stock pile in the shop.
  • Third, check to make sure everything you’re using outside is, in fact, rated for outdoor use. Household fixtures, lamps and extension cords may not be able to withstand the cold or wet weather, especially if its older or showing signs of wear and tear. Like a frayed light strand, this could also result in a short circuit, especially if you’re not connecting to a properly grounded electrical outlet.
  • Finally, never overload electrical sockets. There’s a shot in, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation," where Clark Griswold’s wife, Ellen, goes into the garage to turn on the light switch. You see a bunch of electrical plugs jammed into two outlets. While it is funny, (it’s fiction, we’re allowed to laugh) and while we can even relate it to someone we know, it’s a very real and dangerous hazard that can result in fires and electrocution. Read the safety tag attached to any electrical cords (hopefully you didn’t cut off the tag) and make sure you’re not exceeding the electrical capacity of the cord or your home’s circuitry.

Want to take the hard work out of turning your displays on or off? Many timers are now equipped with WiFi control, so you can turn your displays on and of from your smart phone or schedule your lights to come on every day at a certain time. My personal light display uses Amazon’s Alexa, and WiFi plugs to toggle on Christmas trees and outdoor lights automatically. You more “advanced” decorators likely have a system like this already in place.

May your displays, like your days, be merry and bright. Send us your Christmas displays! Upload your photos and videos to the “See it, Snap it, Send it!” section of our website or news and weather apps.

Happy decorating!

-Gabe

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