Ask the Expert: How Can I Prevent Holiday Home Electrical Hazards?

Christmas lightsToday’s “Ask the Expert” column features Jay Gregg, Director of Marketing with Pillar To Post.

Q: As a homeowner, what can I do to prevent electrical hazards during the holidays?

A: The holidays are a cozy and beautiful time of year. Crackling fires, decorated Christmas trees casting a warm glow for the family gathering around and an influx of loved ones helps infuse the darkest and coldest winter months with cheer and warmth. Unfortunately, the holidays also come with an increased risk of electrical malfunction and fire thanks to all the decorations that give the season its character. Therefore, it’s important to plan your holiday decorating and activities with proper electrical safety in mind.

The first step to any safe holiday season is knowing how safe and up to code your home is to begin with. New homeowners should always have a proper and complete home inspection performed by a certified inspector before purchasing, or at least immediately upon moving in. Even long-time homeowners should keep up with home inspections to better understand how their house is aging. Knowing the structural condition of your house will put you in the best position to safely set up your holiday decorations and carry out holiday activities.

Beyond maintaining a home that’s up to code, here are a few easy, but important, steps to keep your home safe during the holidays:

If you prefer natural Christmas trees, keep them watered. Shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start hundreds of tree fires every year. A well-watered tree resists fire, but a dry tree can be engulfed in flames within seconds.

Place your tree and decorations at least three feet from all heat sources. Be especially vigilant about the placement of space heaters if you use them in your home.

Extinguish all candles and turn off all space heaters, decorations and lights before leaving the house or going to sleep. This prevents a fire from starting when you are not home, or when your family is vulnerable in their beds.

Refrain from plugging multiple electrical decorations into a single outlet or into each other. The more you overload a power strip or outlet, the greater risk you run of causing an electrical fire. Plug your decorations into multiple outlets and be sure to read the instructions included with them to determine the safest method of use.

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