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Who hasn’t seen those Holiday movies that make comedic fodder out of our annual struggles with Christmas light installation and décor? Who hasn’t laughed at those hapless would-be burglars in Home Alone, stepping on a jagged minefield of tree ornaments, or the iconic film poster of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Clark Griswold lit and charged up like a Christmas Tree?
While these moments make for hearty laughs, the reality can often strike a far more somber chord. Every year, accidents involving Christmas decorations cause far too many needless injuries, deaths, and property damage.
The statistics are staggering. Each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “about 11,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to Christmas light installation-related injuries,” mostly caused by “falls, cuts, shocks and burns.”
Every year The National Fire Protection Association reports an “average of 150 home fires, 8.4 million in property damage, and eight deaths” due to decorative lighting with line voltage.
While these statistics are troubling, all of these hazards are completely avoidable. Which is why we at Mobile Illumination want to offer some helpful tips to insure your Christmas decorating and lighting installation is a safe and spirited experience. To help you, we put together a Holiday Dos and Don’ts list.
Christmas Light Installation Safety
Everyone loves the time capsules you find in those cardboard boxes in the attic. Hey, it’s the leisure suit you wore to the prom in ’78, or those ripped acid-washed jeans you wore to the Def Leppard concert back in ’87. Yes, they bring back nostalgic memories, but would you actually try to rock that suit and those jeans today? Probably not. So why would you ever wrap old and damaged light strands around your home or your Christmas Tree? A single bad strand could ruin your home design, and, more importantly, become a safety hazard.
Don’t go at it alone when it comes to hanging outdoor Christmas lights. Just like Maverick needed Goose, and Santa needs his elves, you too need a friend or wing-man to hold that ladder and to help you install those lights.
Time to put away that ancient claw hammer and those rusty nails (nothing says holiday cheer quite like a tetanus shot). Instead, embrace plastic when putting up your outdoor lights. Embrace plastic? Yes, that does sound odd in the age of organic, but when it comes to safely securing those lights without damaging the house, plastic clips are the best option.
Make sure to replace cracked or burned out bulbs, bad sockets, fuses and wires. If you replace any bulbs, make sure your lighting fixture can handle the wattage. Most lighting fixtures will indicate the highest wattage bulb they can safely accommodate. Bulbs above the recommended wattage, along with loose connections and bad wiring are recipes for overheating and electrical fires.
If you plan to hang lights outdoors, make sure that they, along with extension cords, timers, and power strips can handle “the great outdoors” (that allusion to a classic John Candy movie was pure coincidence). Because water and electricity make for a dangerous combination, please make sure all lighting equipment is UL outdoor rated before installation.
Don’t treat your house like a piece of modern art. Avoid the scatter-shot, winging it approach when it comes to lighting installation. Think like a Zen Master; think about balance and harmony. Yes, you want to make the roofline pop but don’t forget about everything beneath the roofline. Lighting only the roofline or one focal area would be like decorating your living
room with only a coffee table.
Have a lighting decoration blue-print. You wouldn’t bake a cake or build a skyscraper without a sound plan or a clear vision of the end result, so apply that same logic to Christmas décor. Take a photograph of your home and train your eye on ways to enhance those architectural features. Do you want to hang icicle lights along the eaves and roofline? What about hanging classic clear lights around windows and doorways, or adding a touch of whimsy by wrapping colored lights around those Greek columns?
Measure, measure, and measure. Think ahead about how many lights you’ll need and follow some simple rules. For example, Lowe’s recommends “100 lights for every 1 ½ ft of tree,” and Mr. Bob Vila, the Stephen Hawking genius of Home Improvement (yes, that one was a stretch), recommends a simple formula to determine lighting for trees: “multiply the height times the width and then double it to get the square footage.”
When it comes to cord selection, think like a Navy Seal and camouflage. For lighting around bushes, garlands, and trees, consider green cords; around rooflines or gutters, consider white cords that blend seamlessly with the décor.
If all of this information is stressing you out, reminding you of those Clark Griswold movie posters or even a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie, do not despair. There is something to be said for hiring professionals like Mobile Illumination to do the job.
If you are a Los Angeles area resident and look forward to Christmas decorations the way Clark Griswold looked forward to spending quality time with his in-laws, do not hesitate to call the experienced professionals at Mobile Illumination. Why worry about proper Christmas light installation, décor, safety, maintenance, and insurance? Why worry about that whole laundry list of dos and don’ts? Why not simplify the Holidays?
This Christmas, let us do all the work so you can have more time to celebrate the season with your friends and family.