The National Fire Protection Agency reports that electrical fires are the leading type of home fire in the US, where roughly half involve equipment like portable or stationary space heaters. In order to avoid electrical hazards, follow the heater manufacturers’ instructions first! You can also follow these tips below to help reduce your risk of an electrical fire this holiday season.
- Don’t Plug Space Heaters into Extension Cords or Power Strips
Space heaters should never be plugged into a power strip because the power strip is not designed to handle the high current that space heaters require. The high current passing through the power strip can cause it to melt, burn, or even catch on fire. Plugging the space heater into a wall outlet is the safest option. Avoid plugging anything else into the same wall outlet as the heater.
Space heaters are meant to put out a lot of heat and can cause furniture, like sofas, to light on fire. Firefighters recommend leaving a minimum of three feet around the space heater at all times. Avoid placing a heater on any surface that can overheat and start a fire like a cabinet, table, or carpet. The best place to put a space heater is on a flat, level surface that will not overheat, like tile or hardwood floors.
- Don’t Overload Electrical Outlets
A good rule of thumb is to only plug one high-wattage decoration into each wall outlet to avoid overloading the electrical outlets, which are a common cause of holiday fires.
The lights on your Christmas tree should be plugged into a surge protector to help avoid a voltage spike, causing all of the lights on your tree to burn out.
- Don’t Connect Over Three Strings of Lights
Connecting multiple strings of lights can cause your circuit breaker to trip, or worse, start a fire. When shopping for Christmas lights, consider purchasing LED lights because they use less energy and don’t produce as much heat as incandescent lights. Before you leave your house or go to sleep, turn off all lights and other decorations, both indoor and outdoor.
Check for safety certification on decorations and lights from independent laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratories. After checking the lights, plug them in to make sure they all work before stringing them on the tree. When connecting different strings of light, connect strings that have the same amount of bulbs per string. For example, if you have a string of 50 lights, do not connect it to a string of 100 lights because they will permanently burn out due to the different amount of voltage.
- Make Sure Any Outdoor Extension Cords or Christmas Lights Are Marked for Outdoor Use
Outdoor and indoor extension cords are different! For example, outdoor extension cords have more durable insulation to protect the wires from moisture and temperature changes. They are also able to prevent damage from chemicals and sunlight damage to the wires.
An extension cord is an outdoor cord if it has a three-prong plug. The third prong acts as a grounding wire, reducing the chance of electrical shock and fires. When setting up outdoor decorations, use lights and extension cords specified for outdoor use. You can use an outdoor extension cord inside, but you should not use an indoor extension cord outside.
Avoid putting any decorations within 10 feet of a power line and exercise extreme caution when decorating near power lines.
- Protect Your Electrical Cords From Damage
Do not hide electrical cords and power strips behind furniture or under rugs because they could spark and start a fire!
Never place electrical cords within a child's reach. You should also use the plastic caps that cover electrical outlets to keep them from sticking their fingers inside! Keep your dogs and cats away from electrical cords, too, to make sure they do not chew on them and cause a short or shock them.