The holidays are nearly here, and that means many things. For lots of homeowners around the area, the holidays mean decorating season, specifically outdoor decorating. Whether you deck your home out for Halloween or put up lights for Christmas, there’s a good chance you’ll probably want to use electricity to power at least a few of them. Everything from lights to inflatables to projectors can be hooked to electricity, and every year it seems displays become bigger and bigger.
However, while a big boost to outdoor electrical safety has made outdoor decorating easier and more dependable than ever, there is always a risk when using electricity in an outdoor environment. Check out our blog for some helpful outdoor safety tips you should follow this holiday season for a safer and more stress-free outdoor decorating experience.
Only Use Outdoor-Rated Cords & Decorations
Extension cords are not all built equally. Many of the cheapest cords you’ll find are meant for indoor use only—their materials are thinner, lower-quality, and not designed to withstand use in outdoor applications where the elements will play a factor. Outdoor-rated cords, on the other hand, often have thicker plastic shielding, additional safety features, and are designed to withstand use in the elements for long periods of time. Never mistake the two as equal and never use an indoor-rated cord outside. Even a small amount of exposure could make one of these cords turn dangerous.
The same can also be said for electrical decorations. While many holiday decorations are beautiful, certain ones simply aren’t designed for outdoor use. Outdoor decorations will often have sealed or water-resistant electrical connections, outdoor-rated power cords, and be capable of withstanding everything from high winds to heavy rain barrages without issues. Indoor decorations could become dangerous with even a small amount of mist or snow. Be sure to check any instruction manuals or included documentation to make sure any decorations are outdoor rated.
Always Use Protected Outlets for Outdoor Power
The biggest danger to using electricity outdoors is exposure to moisture. Moisture creates a short, and shorts are what cause injuries, fires, and other electrical problems. However, most of these problems come from electrical devices which are not plugged into an outlet designed to protect against these problems.
Known as “ground-fault circuit interrupters,” or GFCIs for short, these protective devices are pretty easy to spot. If your electrical outlet has two buttons on it, one labeled “test” and the other “reset”, then you’re looking at a GFCI-protected outlet. A GFCI monitors the current flowing through an outlet. If too much current ever flows through, the GFCI trips and shuts off power. These devices could stop injuries, prevent fires, and even save lives by preventing a sudden spike in current flow. Believe it or not, these devices are required for all electrical outlets which are used in a place where water could be present, such as garages or outdoor installations. If you have one available, use it!
Never Staple Holiday Lights
An industrial staple gun is a quick and convenient way to string holiday lights to your home. However, it’s also not the best way to do it. Staples are not perfectly smooth pieces of metal—in fact, they’re usually exactly the opposite. The small burrs which could form on a staple combined with the force of the gun could penetrate through the insulation and shielding on a wire and cause a short. As soon as you plug your recently-hung lights in, you get sparks, a tripped circuit breaker, and the potential for a fire to break out. This is made all the more likely with cheaper shielding found around many low-cost or low-budget lights.
If you need help with an electrical problem this holiday season or simply want to have your system inspected for safety, trust the team at A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical to get it done. Call us at (503) 694-3396 to schedule your service today.