Christmas-themed accidents might sound like a scene from Home Alone, but there’s a serious side to decking the halls. Here’s how to safely set up your lights, and check them twice.
Whether you’re known for your Christmas LED extravaganza, or you’re a fairy light minimalist, there’s something about the tradition of getting out the red and green with family and friends that Christmas lovers can’t resist. Holiday-happy homeowners and renters are getting in the spirit even earlier thanks to the pull of social media and the general mood-boosting benefits.
Research by Confused.com revealed that over half (56%) of people surveyed put their decorations up early so they have plenty of time to enjoy them. But for all the extra time you give your brightly-coloured bulbs, that's all the more time you need to pay attention and be proactive - so your home’s not left in the dark.
Fire and Rescue NSW states that 40% of house fires are caused by electrical appliances, and the use of candles is also a common cause. While we don’t have a heap of recent data in Australia, one might consider that the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that an average of 770 fires are caused by Christmas lights every year in the USA. The NFPA mentions the main cause of these fires is an electrical fault, and that outdoor lights are equally as risky as indoor lights.
The major difference to this US data is we don’t exactly have a white Christmas here in the land of Oz. Heatwaves and electrical storms are dangerous enough during the Australian summer - and when these weather events are paired with extra electric cords and burning candles, house fires are more likely to occur. Cardboard boxes, dust, dry leaves, and vegetation (including real Christmas trees) can make one heck of kindling.
So, as you prepare to blow the dust off the decorations box, here’s how you can get in the spirit while having a safe and happy festive season.
Master Electricians Australia suggest the following electrical safety tips:
- Ensuring lights and other appliances have an Australian approval number (e.g. Q12345; V12345; N12345; NSW12345) or the regulatory compliance mark logo. These indicate compliance with Australian Standards
- Install safety switches on all circuits in your home
- Only use designated outdoor electrical products outside the home
- Don’t use double adapters on power boards
- Check your smoke detectors are working correctly
- Check appliances, extension cords and cables for damage before using them
Additionally, and especially if you only dig out your lights once a year, look for any breaks or exposed wires in your Christmas lights. Faulty wiring could lead to excessive heat, which could lead to sparks and eventually fire.
Importantly, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you’re not around. There’s a lot to remember this silly season, so you might like to look into products that help keep you connected to your home. For example, Honey offers smart home sensors with eligible policies that can be setup to send alerts to your smartphone and help you avoid the trinity of household troubles – fire, water damage, and theft. The Australian Government reminds us that Christmas lights also consume energy, adding to your energy use and electricity bills. They suggest that to minimise your costs and impact, choose LED lighting. LEDs use about 75% less energy than their halogen light bulb cousins, and last 5 to 10 times longer, which means you’ll be able to use them for years to come. Better yet, LED lights don’t heat up, they glow because of photons. As a result, the bulb doesn’t feel hot and will help reduce heat-related sparks and hazards.
Got a real tree? Take care when watering it… we all know water and electricity don’t mix, so be mindful to remove your lights before getting out the watering can. The QLD Fire and Emergency Services also adds the following tips to keep real trees from becoming highly flammable:
- Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2cm from the base of the trunk to allow for water absorption. Add water to the tree stand
- Avoid the tree drying out by adding water daily
- Dispose of the tree after Christmas or if it becomes dry. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and a fire danger
- Consider recycling your tree as garden mulch
The lights themselves are just one of the risks when it comes to setting up your tree and decorations. Consumer watchdog Choice reported that 41% of injuries during the holiday period are usually caused by falls. So if you’re looking at a few unstable rungs on your ladder before putting the star atop the tree, or rigging the lights from the roof… think again.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Crank the carols, whip out the wrapping paper and hang those stockings - putting in the extra effort to create a safe environment will allow you to enjoy a happy, hazard-free Christmas season.
Don’t forget to read the fine print
Insurance issued by RACQ Insurance Limited ABN 50 009 704 152, AFSL 233 082 and distributed by Honey Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 52 643 672 628, AFSL 528244. Conditions, limits and exclusions apply. This is general advice only and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Always read the PDS, any applicable SPDS and TMD available at honeyinsurance.com before making any decision.