Every holiday season, the Ting Fire Safety Team sees an uptick in electrical hazards related to holiday decorations. In 2022, Ting helped protect numerous homeowners from one particular hazard – Christmas tree lights!
Christmas lights cause 40% of Christmas tree fires, according to the NFPA. If you celebrate Christmas and are putting up a tree, how do you know if your Christmas tree lights are safe?
Having your Ting sensor monitoring your home is a good start, but there are also a few things you can do to prevent an electrical fire this holiday season.
Use UL Safety Certified Christmas Lights
Check your box of string lights or your pre-lit tree for a UL label. This label means the lights meet industry safety standards from Underwriters Laboratory. Although UL approval is not a legal requirement, lights with this certification will be safer to use in your home.
If you don’t see the UL label on your lights, consider investing in ones that do.
Replace Old or Damaged String Lights
It may seem tedious to check all 150 bulbs on each strand of lights, but a quick inspection could save you from a fire or electric shock. Before plugging in your lights, check them visually for:
- cracked or frayed cords
- wires poking through the insulation
- loose bulb connections
- sockets without bulbs
- burned out bulbs
After visually examining the set, place it on a non-flammable surface and plug it in for 15 minutes before decorating. If you notice any defects, discard the set. Lights are cheap to replace, and much cheaper than dealing with a fire!
Inspect Your Pre-Lit Tree
Pre-lit artificial trees are becoming more popular for their quick and convenient set-up. The problem is that you can’t inspect them as easily as string lights. Before you assemble and plug in your tree, use a flashlight to inspect the cords and bulbs along the branches for damage, fraying, or broken parts.
Upgrade to LED Lights
Most string lights are not designed to last for a long time. Traditional incandescent lights usually have a lifespan of about four to six years. Consider upgrading to LED lights that last closer to seven to ten years and are safer – LED lights are cool to the touch (overheating is a major cause of fires) and use less electricity. The perfect time of year to lower your electric bill!
Plugging In (and Unplugging) Your Tree Safely
In general, it is recommended by the CPSC not to plug in more than three sets of incandescent Christmas lights per extension cord, as it may cause overheating. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions about how many strings of lights can be connected.
If using a power strip or extension cord (if you can avoid it, try not to use both together), check their wattage ratings. If the combined wattage of your lights exceeds that of your cord or strip, it can overheat. Also, some lights are not compatible with extension cords – check the packaging for warnings first.
I got an alert from Ting stating there was a possible fire hazard in my home. The Fire Safety Engineer and I came to the conclusion that it was related to an extension cord that I have use to power my Christmas tree for years. Ting saved us from a fire in our home!– Danny B. in Mint Hill, NC
Always unplug Christmas lights or your pre-lit tree (not just turn off) when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire and also pose a shock hazard to pets and children.
Until Next Year: Pack Away With Care
Lastly, careful handling of lights during unraveling, decorating, and repacking will reduce the chances of damage. There are plenty of tips & tricks online for neat packing using cardboard, tissue paper, and other materials to keep them safe until next year.
One Final Note…
We can’t talk about tree safety without mentioning the importance of keeping your real Christmas tree watered. Though it’s not an electrical fire hazard, it is a major fire hazard. Check water levels daily and provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
We hope you have a wonderful, joyous, and safe holiday season. We know this time of year is busy, but we want to remind you if something doesn’t seem right or if you receive a hazard notification, please get in touch with our Ting Fire Safety Team immediately.