Putting up Christmas lights is a popular tradition and part of the joy of the festive period. Unfortunately, dangerous incidents can and do occur when putting up Christmas lights, which are often caused by faulty or non-compliant electrical equipment.
To ensure your Christmas is perfect and accident-free, here are some tips for Christmas light and decoration safety:
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety warnings.
Ensure all lights, extension leads and powerboards are suitable for your intended use - use indoor and outdoor lights and decorations only as recommended.
Buy Australian-compliant lights - beware of non-compliant lights online and from overseas sellers as they may not meet Australian standards (may cause fires, electric shock or electrocution). Visit www.eess.gov.au to check if the lights you’re buying are compliant and registered.
Test all Christmas lights before putting them up and check old lights and leads before re-using them — never use a damaged lead.
Always turn off decorative or Christmas lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
Make sure the power is off when putting up your Christmas lights or changing light bulbs.
Don’t alter or modify lights or any electrical product.
If you have a living Christmas tree, switch off and unplug the lights when watering the tree.
Keep Christmas lights out of reach of children.
If you have any concerns about the safety of the Christmas decorations dispose of them safely or get them checked by a licensed electrical contractor.
Make sure to take down your decorations when the Christmas season is over because most decorations are not designed for year-round use and can deteriorate over time.
Keep outdoor connections above ground and out of puddles.
Ensure your outdoor lights have an IP rating number showing how waterproof the light is — outdoor equipment must have a rating of at least IP23.
When hanging outdoor lighting, look out for overhead powerlines when using a pole extension or a ladder. Keep tools back 3 m from overhead powerlines.
Opt for solar-powered lights as they are the safest options in preventing electric shock and fires caused by overheating.
Never put Christmas lighting or decorations around or above swimming pools or areas of water.
Avoid passing electrical leads through doorways and windows where leads may be damaged or wrapping lights and cables around objects that may damage them.
Floodlights, halogen lights and other high-powered lights can become very hot – keep them away from anything that might catch fire.
Buying Christmas lights
A few things to keep in mind before buying Christmas lights:
Plug-in Christmas lights must meet safety standards and are required to have an Australian certificate of approval. They also need to be registered on the national register located at www.eess.gov.au before they can be sold.
Buy your lights from a reputable dealer who will know the electrical equipment safety requirements for selling Christmas lights and have registered themselves and the equipment on the national register. You can use the public search function to search for the equipment.
Look for the regulatory compliance mark (RCM) logo shown below, which indicates compliance with Australian Standards. This mark must be on the plug in Christmas lights and powered decorations and is normally found on the packaging, plastic tag near the plug, or on the transformer body if it is an extra low voltage type.
Beware of buying Christmas lights online from overseas
Electrical equipment sold in Australia must meet strict electrical safety standards.
Beware of buying Christmas lights online, particularly from overseas sellers. Other countries have different safety standards and the products sold in these countries may be unsafe for use in Australia
Visit www.eess.gov.au to search for registered products
When buying lights second-hand, consider:
Second-hand Christmas lights should be checked by a licensed electrician or electrical contractor to ensure they are safe to use
Safety requirements for Christmas lights have changed in recent years, some second-hand lights may not meet the latest safety requirements
Below are some general tips on safely connecting and using electrical equipment and Christmas lights around the home:
Test your safety switch and smoke detector to make sure they are working – if you don’t have a safety switch, get one installed or use a portable safety switch
Use power boards fitted with over-load protection – avoid using double adaptors or piggybacking plugs
Unwind all extension leads to avoid overheating
Use factory-made extension leads or those made by a licensed electrical contractor
Use extra-low voltage outside, such as LED or solar lights
Using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits
If you must use outdoor electrical connections make sure they are weatherproof. You can buy weatherproofing accessories from your local hardware store.
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Information sourced from: Energy Safe Victoria and The Electrical Safety Authority.
Image credit: Thalia Ruiz on Unsplash.
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.