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

Holiday Safety Tips

Dear Mr. Electrician:  What are some holiday safety tips?  I want to ensure my home is safe from fire and electrical shock 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: Below is my ongoing list of holiday safety tips.  Extension cords are usually used to deliver power where it is needed temporarily, but they must be used correctly. NOTE: Some text links below go to applicable products on Amazon.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  Using my links helps to keep this website FREE. Finding a source of temporary electrical power and laying extension cords down in a safe manner can be tricky.  I have seen a variety of methods to get power to outside holiday decorations, and 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 but have no additional protection from the circuit breaker beyond a circuit overload or short circuit/ground fault condition. AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers do have additional protection against fires and electrocution.  Talk to an electrical contractor about making your home safe by installing some. Going through door and window openings could cause an 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 outlet. In a client's garage, I once saw 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 plugged into the cord end.  The outside Christmas light cords came 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!  Portable extension cords must not be used as a permanent installation.  The insulation on the cord is not rated for that type of use, and it will eventually fail. Below is my ongoing list of holiday safety tips.  Many of which apply all year round. TIPS TO PREVENT FIRE AND ELECTROCUTION 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. Extension cords should be properly sized for the load they will carry.  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 hazards and electrocution.  Portable GFCI protection devices are available.  Do not use power strips outdoors unless they are rated for outdoor wet locations. To reduce nuisance tripping of the GFCI from outdoor...