Depending on how extravagantly you deck your halls with holiday lights, you may have more electrical hazards to address. To keep the holiday season safe for your family, along with taking safety measures of your own, you may need to hire a qualified electrician. An electrician can provide further protection from potential electrical hazards associated with holiday lights and electric decorations.
Plug your outdoor lights and other electric decorations into ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. GFCI outlets offer overcurrent protection by monitoring the amount of electricity flowing in a circuit. A GFCI outlet shuts off the circuit if the electrical current flowing through the wires takes an alternate path, such as through water, to the ground. Working in much the same way as a circuit breaker, but quicker, a GFCI outlet also will shut off electric power if a live wire comes into contact with a metal conduit.
The use of GFCI outlets helps reduce the risk of electric shock and fire. But if you don't have any GFCI outlets outdoors, a licensed electrician can install the outlets you need for safety's sake. How many GFCI outlets you need depends on the type and number of lights you use. When planning your holiday electrical outlet needs, consider that, unlike incandescent lights, which use more electricity, LED lights use less wattage, which means you need fewer plug outlets.
In addition to the installation of GFCI outlets outdoors, carefully check all string lights and outdoor extension cords for exposed wiring. A damaged power cord that shows the inside wiring can cause an electric arc between connections, which can overload a circuit, particularly if the wires are exposed to moisture.
Additional Household Outlets
Because it's more convenient to place a lighted tree near a wall outlet, if there aren't any outlets located where your tree would look just perfect, an electrician can add an electrical outlet so that you don't have to run extension cords. As long as the electrician can add the outlet to an existing circuit, the average cost for the installation of a 120V household outlet ranges from $75 to $250.
The cost per outlet may be lower if you have more than one outlet installed. But, if a nearby circuit can't handle the additional load, it will cost you more because the electrician will need to run another 120V circuit off the electrical panel.
Although a circuit generally can accommodate several outlets and lighting fixtures, if there already are several electrical items drawing power from a circuit, plugging in your holiday lights may trip your circuit breakers. This can happen when the added wattage from Christmas lights exceeds the amp capacity of the circuit. But a circuit with fewer items plugged into outlets leaves you with more wattage capacity.
UL Approved Lights
Whether decorating the indoor and/or outdoor of your home for the holidays, use only lights, extension cords, and electric decorations products that come with UL approved labels. The label tells you that a product has been approved by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.—a product safety certification organization that tests electrical devices to determine if they meet the organization's rigorous safety standards. Likewise, if you set up a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, choose one that has the Underwriters Laboratories label.
For more information about safe electrical practices during the holidays, talk to an electrician at All American Air & Electric, Inc.