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An outdoor light fixture with Christmas lights wrapped around it and plugged into the light bulb socket and energized

Safety Tips For The Holidays

Dear Mr. Electrician:  How can I make my home safe for the holidays?  My family wants to set up elaborate decorations, but we don't have any outside electrical receptacle outlets to plug our extension cords in. Answer:  Extension cords are usually used to deliver power where it is needed on a temporary basis.  Finding a source of power and laying extension cords down in a safe manor can be tricky.  I have seen a variety of methods to get power to outside holiday decorations, many of them were unsafe. Sometimes the cords are run through windows or under doors and are plugged into indoor electrical receptacle outlets that are the most convenient.  Going through door and window openings could cause the extension cord to become damaged and possibly energize a metal frame.  Do not run an extension cord through a window or door.  Also, any cord for outdoor use should be plugged into a GFCI protected electrical receptacle.  NOTE: Text links below go to applicable products on Amazon.com or EBay.com I once saw at a client's garage how he had plugged an extension cord into a ceiling electrical receptacle outlet.  He stapled the cord across the ceiling to a side window where he had a power strip with the outside Christmas light cords coming through the window and plugged into the power strip.  There was no GFCI protection and he had the window closed down on the cords which can damage the cord insulation.  Do not do this at your home! Some of My Personal Holiday Safety Tips If installed correctly, extension cords and holiday decorations can bring some holiday excitement to your household.  If done wrong, fire, electrical shocks, and even death by electrocution become possible. Wear shoes.  Protect your feet when setting up decorations. Extension cords should be properly sized for the load that they will be carrying.  Cords should be 14 or 12 gauge (12 is larger than 14 and can carry more electrical current).  If using an extension cord outside it should be rated for outdoor use.  Outdoor extension cord wiring must be plugged into an electrical receptacle outlet that is GFCI protected to help reduce shock hazard and electrocution.  Portable GFCI protection devices are available.  Do not use power strips outdoors unless they are rated for wet locations. To reduce nuisance tripping of the GFCI from outdoor decorations, elevate the plugged connections between extension cords and tree lights and other decorations.  Drape the plugged connections on top of a piece of wood or log to keep them off the ground.  This will keep water from directly entering the plugs from rain or snow.  It will also allow the plugs to dry faster when the sun comes out. I do not think that it is a good idea to wrap plugged connections in plastic bags.  Condensation can build up inside the bag and cause arcing. Electric Christmas lights and decorations that are used indoors should be AFCI and GFCI protected.  Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters will help protect against arcing and sparks which can create fires. ...