5 Christmas lights safety tips you need to follow this festive season

We strongly recommend reading these tips to avoid a Christmas catastrophe

Christmas lights
(Image credit: Chantal de Bruijne / Shutterstock)

Christmas lights are simply the epitome of festive cheer. It's true, a Christmas tree wouldn't be complete without its twinkling lights, would it? However, whilst even the best festive lights make for the perfect Christmas display, they don’t come without risk. Without proper preparation or safety checks, Christmas can very quickly become a catastrophe.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 790 house fires are caused by Christmas lights each year. With this in mind, we spoke to the experts at Yell, known for their extensive DIY and house maintenance knowledge. They shared a list of the top 5 tips anyone should follow to avoid a decorations disaster this Christmas. You never know, reading these tips might make a huge difference!

Before you do, have you read the 7 things you can do to save money on your Christmas lights?  

1. Pick the right kind of light

It may seem like a clever idea to utilise any outdoor string lights inside, or opt for indoor lights to hang outside, but this can be a high-risk health and safety issue. 

Indoor and outdoor lights are not interchangeable and should be kept to their respective areas. With this in mind, it is highly important to ensure the lights you are hanging are correct for the type of environment.

Indoor lights have been specifically tested and designed to ensure they are not a fire hazard within the home, whilst outdoor lights are solely designed to withstand wet and cold weather. Using outdoor lights inside could pose a fire hazard as they get exceptionally hotter than indoor lights and can easily catch fire to the tree. Similarly, indoor lights are not made to withstand wet and cold weather conditions. 

To be safe, make sure you only purchase certified lights for the area you wish to decorate. For example, indoor lights should be for the Christmas tree, and outdoor lights for a patio, front garden or roof. 

2. Check for any missing/broken light bulbs or faulty wiring

Many people reach for the same set of Christmas lights each year, be it for the tree, an outdoor display, or to brighten up a fireplace or mantlepiece. Before reusing each year, an electrician's advice is always to check for failed, missing or broken bulbs.

Make sure to replace any old or dead bulbs with ones that are using the same type and rating as the originals. If different rating bulbs are used, it could risk a short circuit or even bulb explosion. Faulty wiring can also make your home more susceptible to an electrical fire, even if just the protective casing has come away from the wire.

If you notice any lights are out or find that the lights are damaged in any way throughout Christmas, they should not be used and replaced with a safe, new legally certified set. 

3. Turn your lights off overnight or when you leave the house

It may be tempting to leave your fairy lights on whilst you are out and about to keep the festive cheer going, or to make the most of them being most visible at night, but this is one of the things you should certainly not be doing. 

Leaving the lights on overnight or unattended can not only risk short-circuiting or overheating but can result in fire and electrical damage, or even just high power bills.

If you are planning on leaving your lights on for prolonged periods, make sure you check the label to determine whether the bulbs and the wattage can handle a long night of illumination. However, the most strongly advised tip is always to turn them off and unplug them at night time or when you leave the house.

4. Use the correct ladder when hanging exterior lights

If you decide to go full Who-Ville and decorate your home’s exterior and roof, the ladder you choose to reach those high-up places to string up your lights is highly important. 

The type of ladder you use matters. Metal ladders conduct electricity and if you are not careful, handling lights on a metal ladder can lead to electrical shocks. When hanging anything electrical for the festive season, contractors recommend using a wooden or fibreglass ladder to avoid getting shocked. 

5. Use the right extension cords and avoid overloading

Christmas just wouldn't be the same without digging out your trusty extension cord to power all the countless lights. However, there are a few things you need to consider before plugging in your festive lights. 

Note how much you are plugging into your cord and be mindful that too many high-wattage lights can very quickly overheat, risking an electrical fire. You also want to make sure you never connect an extension cord with another extension cord. This will make your decorations highly vulnerable to fire accidents over the festive season. 

Ensure you have measured the extension cord length that you need to avoid any tripping hazards and ensure there are enough ports. If the wiring of an extension cord gets damaged, it is important to switch it out immediately to avoid any short-circuiting. 

Interested in more? Make sure to read our guide on how to make your Christmas tree part of your smart home!

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.