For many people, one of the favorite pastimes of the holidays is decorating their homes to celebrate the season. This includes a number of different things, including inflatable decorations, holiday lights, small projectors, twinkle lights, and so much more. One thing that almost all of these outdoor decorations have in common: they require an electrical connection in order to work properly. While things like flags or simple signs are always an option, many people choose to step things up by putting up these electric decorations.
If you’re among them, you likely have two goals in mind: make your home look beautiful, but do so in a way that is safe for you, your home, and anybody who comes to visit. When working with electricity, that means taking a few extra steps and precautionary measures. Here are four tips for how you can do that while possibly even saving money on your energy costs during the season as well!
Always Use Protected Outlets in Outdoor Applications
Winter is notorious for precipitation, and precipitation and electricity don’t mix all that well. Therefore, if you want to use electricity in an outdoor setting, you’ll want to make sure that your electrical setup is protected. The best way to do this is with outlets protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI for short. These simple devices act as a sort of “fuse” for your outlet, shutting off the flow of energy if the current suddenly spikes too high.
You can tell a GFCI outlet from a regular one pretty easily. Simply look at the outlet: if it has two buttons on it, one labeled “test” and the other “reset,” then that’s a GFCI-protected outlet. When you press the “test” button, the “reset” button should pop out and anything plugged into the outlet should shut off. Pressing the reset button should cause it to lock pressed in and your power to turn on again. We recommend always using these outlets anywhere that water may be present around your electrical, including outdoor locations as well as in your kitchen, bathrooms, and garage outlets.
Cover Outlets with Bubble Covers
In addition to using protected outlets, you should cover the outlets themselves for an added layer of protection. The best form of protection is a modern bubble cover. These covers allow you to safely plug in an extension cord and run the cord out through the bottom of the cover, while the cover itself remains closed tight and sealed from any rain or other moisture. This keeps the outlet dry and safe during even heavy rains.
Bubble covers should be on all outdoor outlets in order to keep them protected, even when they aren’t in use. Installing one of these covers is generally easy, and you can purchase them from any home improvement warehouse or electrical supply store in the area. Installation usually just takes a few minutes, and at the most requires a screwdriver to complete.
Don’t Use Staples on Electric Lights
Unfortunately, a large number of people every year experience a fire in their home due to holiday decorating. However, the problem wasn’t usually with the decorations themselves—it’s usually with how they are installed. Hanging lights or other electrical decorations is a challenge, and that’s why many people resort to using their trusty staple gun to do the job.
However, industrial or construction staples are not the way to hang lights. When you staple lights to the eaves or a different part of your home’s exterior, you run the risk of the staple puncturing the insulating rubber or plastic around the electrical wire that feeds your decorations. When a metal staple comes in contact with the electrical current, it functions as a “ground” that dumps current out through the staple. As a result, this can cause sparks, make the staple glow red-hot, and ignite a potential electrical fire. If you plan on using staples, use tack staples that come with a cover that protects wires from puncture. That or consider investing in one of several easy-hang products that hold up your lights without risk to their insulation integrity.
Use Low-Voltage LED Lighting
Low-voltage LED lighting is great for a variety of reasons. For starters, LED decorations come in a huge variety of colors, styles, sizes, and features. Some lights change color. Some lights can be color-controlled through a small electronic control device. Whatever you’re looking for, there is probably something out there that does it. Likewise, these lights offer a lot of brightness and durability while using only a tiny fraction of the energy of their counterparts. Likewise, this lower energy actually makes these lights safer to use in some cases. Because these lights only need a tiny amount of energy, the voltage and current flowing through the lines feeding them is typically smaller, making them safer. However, be sure that any decorations you use outdoors are rated for outdoor use.Have a safe and bright holiday season from all of us here at A-TEMP Heating, Cooling & Electrical! Contact us by dialing (503) 694-3396 today.