The holidays are approaching rapidly, and that means it’s nearly outdoor decorating season. Whether you’re an avid decorator for everything from Halloween through Christmas, or you simply settle for a small outdoor light display or a few decorations for your holiday of choice, now’s the time to start preparing for outdoor electrical usage and making sure you can decorate safely. While using electricity outside is safer today than it’s perhaps ever been, it’s still important to make sure you’re setting up your decorations properly. Using electrical equipment near water always presents at least some degree of risk, so it’s a good idea to mitigate it as much as possible.
Fortunately, decorating safely is easy if you follow a few simple safety tips. Check out a few of them from our skilled electricians in this blog.
Always Use Outdoor-Rated Extension Cords
Not all extension cords are created equal: there are your normal extension cords and then there are your outdoor-rated extension cords. Normal extension cords are fairly common and inexpensive, however outdoor-rated extension cords are those which are built to withstand the added rigors of outdoor use. The shielding around an outdoor-rated cord is more durable and built to withstand constant bombardment from sunlight, the elements, and other threats that would otherwise damage the standard insulation on an indoor cord. They’re also tougher to break, and far less likely to cause a short or electrical problem when used outside. If you plan on decorating outdoors and you need to use an extension cord to get power there, always make sure you use an outdoor-rated extension cord. And likewise, if you plan on keeping a decoration in place permanently, never use an extension cord as a permanent solution. Instead, let a professional install a permanent outlet where you need it for safer and more durable electrical solutions.
Never Plug in to Unprotected Outlets
All outdoor electrical hookups should be plugged in to an outlet that’s protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI for short. A GFCI is a safety device that monitors the amount of current flowing through a circuit. If the current grows too high, the GFCI trips and shuts off the power to that outlet. If there’s a short, spark, or fault somewhere in the electrical equipment connected to one of these protected outlets, the GFCI will shut it off and prevent a serious injury or possible fire.
Believe it or not, building code requires that all outlets in areas where water may be present, including outdoor outlets, must be equipped with a GFCI. If your outlet does not have one of these protective devices installed, we strongly advise either finding a different outlet which does have one installed, or installing a GFCI-equipped outlet instead.
Never Staple Holiday Lights to Your Home
Have you ever seen the classic holiday comedy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? The scene where Clark Griswold takes his trusty staple gun up to the roof to try and create a breathtaking holiday light display is no doubt one of the all-time holiday movie greats. However, it also teaches us an important lesson about how to properly decorate for the holidays, and it’s a simple one: don’t use staples.
Staples in your roof actually damage the surface of your roof. If you have asphalt shingles, you’re putting a ton of tiny holes in your roof which could cause leaks. Leaks can damage your roof, your attic, and your home as a whole. However, staples are also sharp and have jagged edges, which can cut through the insulation on holiday lights. All it takes is a cut that’s slightly too deep and suddenly you turn on your lights to a shower of sparks and possibly even a fire or tripped electrical circuit or GFCI. Do yourself a favor: either hang hooks where you want to string up lights or purchase specialized light-hanging brackets which can suspend your lights where you want them without the damage to the lights themselves.
Don’t Go On Your Roof in Inclement Conditions
Finally, we’re at that point where the weather is going to start getting really, truly cold. Rain is on the way, as is snow, sleet, and icy conditions. We wish it wasn’t the case, but sadly far too many people are injured every year while trying to decorate their home in conditions that are inclement for the job. If your roof is covered in snow, ice, or is even wet from a recent rainstorm, do not set foot on it. A slippery roof can cause serious injuries, and that’s a sure-fire way to throw a wrench into your holiday plans. You may have to change your decorating plan, but it’s far better to make a change than it is to end up seriously hurt.
If you’ve got an electrical issue making your outdoor decorating difficult, pick up the phone and call the team at Roby Services at (704) 753-7754 today.