Before you get caught up in the festivities, these outdoor Christmas lights safety tips are important for avoiding potentially dangerous situations over the Holiday season.
Nothing gets you in the festive spirit quite like hanging Christmas lights, but dressing the outside of our home presents a different set of safety considerations than our indoor displays.
And when it comes to electrics, the risk of injury to yourself and your home when not handled correctly is not to be underestimated.
So get up to speed with our outdoor Christmas light safety tips when planning your outdoor Christmas decor ideas this year.
Stay safe with our outdoor Christmas lights safety tips
'Outdoor Christmas light ideas such as string lights and net lights are some of the easiest ways of creating outdoor Christmas charm,' says Rikke Blaeside, Design and Range Manager at JYSK (opens in new tab).
'It is a practical way to decorate because string lights and net lights can be wrapped around most things. This makes them ideal for balconies, shrubs, trees and even flagpoles.'
However, there are steps to take before, during and after the process of handling outdoor Christmas lights, to avoid any form of danger, big and small.
1. Check existing lights are in good health
After 11 long months collecting dust in the loft, just how safe are our outdoor Christmas lights and what can we do to prevent injury or malfunction?
Ryan McDonough at My Job Quote (opens in new tab) advises: 'Before thinking about how to put Christmas lights on a house, check the wiring, cables and plugs for damage. Wiring should be sufficiently sealed to keep out any water and debris, as this can leave your home prone to fire, which may cause injury or death.'
Angela Slater, gardening expert at Hayes Garden World (opens in new tab) says that if you find any frayed wires then you should throw the lights away. Don't be tempted to fix them yourself by binding the wire with tape.
2. Buy good quality designs if buying new
'Make sure you are using the best outdoor Christmas lights. Keep a lookout when purchasing that they are waterproof and they meet industry standards,' says Cristopher Varghese, Ecommerce Executive at GTSE (opens in new tab).
'Make sure the lights you buy say they are suitable for outdoors on the packaging and that they are sold by a reputable supplier, not someone who has just bought stock on the cheap,' says Angela Slater.
'This time of year, it is common to see cheap foreign imports on the market and many of them won’t comply with your regional safety standards,' she says.
There are plenty of good quality outdoor Christmas lights available at Amazon (opens in new tab) and other online retailers. If buying in the US they should be UL or ETL approved and in the UK they should have the UKCA seal of approval. We like these Shooting Star Blue Icicle LED Plug-In Christmas Icicle Lights from Lowes (opens in new tab).
3. Only use outdoor Christmas lights outdoors
'This might seem like an obvious one here but always follow what it says on the packaging. If they are meant to be used outside, use them outside and use indoor lights indoors,' advises Cristopher Varghese.
'Lights that have markings on for outdoor use have been designed for that and they can withstand the colder temperatures outside, for example when used for your Christmas porch decor ideas, but they can also get hotter than indoor lights and risk causing fires inside,' he explains.
So always ensure your Christmas lighting is weatherproof and manufactured for home exteriors. 'Don’t tamper with lights, such as putting a waterproof plug onto indoor lights. Outdoor lights also have waterproof cable, bulbs and bulb sockets,' says Angela Slater.
4. Put up your Christmas lights safely
'Ensure that your Christmas lights are fastened safely and correctly. Avoid using nails or staples when putting up Christmas lights, but rather use plastic mounting clips/hooks or even cable ties to hang them,' says Cristopher Varghese.
'I use Command outdoor lights clips (available from Amazon) (opens in new tab) to hang my Christmas lights on the front of my house,' says Gardeningetc's editor Beth Murton. 'They're weatherproof, really simple to use, and available in a number of sizes so you can find the right set to suit the size and weight of your lights.'
Be careful when hanging the lights too. 'Make sure you don’t do this task alone and have someone help you,' says Cristopher.
'Try not to connect more than three lights to an extension cord,' he says. If you have a complex display where you want to put up many lights, hire a licensed electrician to do it for you so that the installation is done correctly.'
'Make sure any cables are not left trailing across paths and aren't running through any standing water,' says Angela Slater.
5. Be careful when hanging outdoor Christmas lights in trees
Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees can be particularly effective, but make sure the lights are properly secured to the branches and not hanging down where they can be easily pulled or caught on a person or vehicle.
'Cable ties are a really great way to secure outdoor Christmas lights and keep them in place throughout the winter season,' says Amy Mason, Director of Product at Lights4fun (opens in new tab).
'If you notice any flickering of the lights, or any sound, heat or smoke coming from the plug, stop using them immediately,' adds Amy.
Ryan McDonough urges that you never hang your outdoor Christmas lights in close proximity to any flammable decorations and materials that may burn easily.
If you live in a dry climate Cristopher Varghese advises you remember to regularly water your trees during the festive period. 'One of the main reasons for Christmas fires, is people using high voltage bulbs next to dried leaves,' he says.
6. Keep your outdoor Christmas lights watertight
When it comes to outdoor Christmas lights safety tips, Rikke Blaeside advises you steer clear of lights that are designated for indoor use. 'Indoor lights do not belong outdoors. Moisture can easily penetrate the string lights and cause short-circuiting.'
'Outdoor lighting design is more resilient quality-wise and is better at withstanding damp, frost, and strong wind. If a string light is suitable for outdoor use, this will be clearly stated on the light's packaging,' Rikke says.
'Even if the plugs for outdoor Christmas lights are designed for outdoor use, the safest option is to not mix electric currents with rain and drain water,' says Ryan McDonough. 'Use an electrical socket that is inside your home, and feed the wiring safely through a door or window,' he says.
7. Store away your lights properly when not in use
'When you have taken down your outdoor Christmas lights, you should store them in a dry place,' says Rikke.
'Preferably in the light's original packaging for optimum protection to ensure the cable remains in the best condition. It also means there's less risk of nicks in the cable, which could result in shock or cause a fire.'
If you have several sets of lights, keeping everything together in a large plastic storage box that can be sealed with a lid is a smart move as there's less chance of the lights getting damp in your shed storage or garage when they are not in use.
8. Don't overload your system
'Don’t overload sockets,' says Ryan McDonough. 'In fact, try to stay away from using extension cables and adapters completely and avoid connecting different sets of lighting together.'
'Ensure you switch off all outdoor lighting before going to bed or leaving your home for an extended period. Leaving outdoor lights switched on for a prolonged period of time leaves you at an increased risk for house fire,' says Ryan.
How do you know if your outdoor Christmas lights are safe?
'Before using your Christmas lights for your landscaping with lighting, it’s important to check if they’re safe,' says Ryan McDonough.
Here are his top outdoor Christmas lights safety tips to check for:
- Christmas light wiring should not display any damage or faults, if you see any loose wiring or breaks in the wiring seal, safely dispose of your Christmas lighting and replace it.
- Replace any faulty bulbs with bulbs of the same wattage and bulb type before usage to avoid overheating, this can prevent the risk of fire.
- Ensure you buy your lights from a reputable store - cheaper lighting can pose a fire hazard risk if they are poorly manufactured.
- Modern string lighting is usually manufactured with a 24V or are double insulated, which increases safety during use. When observing your lighting you may be able to check that they comply with the safety regulations in your area.
Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of garden