The Ultimate Holiday Lighting Safety List

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

The holiday season is upon us, and that means homeowner and renters around Indianapolis will soon dress their homes, inside and out, with lights. Light strands have grown safer over the years, but the inherent risk of fire and electrocution from these decorations still exist.

As Christmas approaches and you plug in electric decorations, keep in mind the hazards of these products. The U.S. Fire Administration reported between 2009 and 2013 that decorations alone caused an average of $13.4 million in property damage each year. In order to help you stay safe during the holidays, we at White’s Electrical have put together the ultimate holiday lighting safety list.

Do You Need New Lights?

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. If you’re still using lights with incandescent bulbs, consider upgrading to lights with LED bulbs. LED bulbs pose many advantages over incandescent ones. In terms of safety, they do not produce as much heat, and therefore are far less likely to cause fires for this reason. LEDs also last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you’re less likely to experience problems with burnt out bulbs. The bulbs on LEDs are also less likely to break than those on incandescent bulbs because LED bulbs are made with an epoxy, while incandescent bulbs use glass. This means that if you keep your cords in good shape, your LED light strands will last you much longer than an incandescent light strand. Last, LED bulbs are also brighter than incandescent ones, so people can enjoy your holiday spirit all the more.
  2. Before buying light strands or other electric decorations, check for the safety compliance labels. Products should be marked with a symbol from Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), Interlink (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). These organizations make sure products comply with safety standards. Their seal means they have inspected and tested the product and approved it in terms of safety.

Before You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

  1. First, look over the light strands and check for broken or cracked sockets, loose connections, or frayed wires. If you come across damaged strands, throw them out. Frayed wires can easily transmit heat and electrical current and therefore cause fires or electrocution. Loose connection and cracked sockets are dangerous because they can easily deteriorate and expose live elements (parts with an electrical current) like wires.
  2. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before stringing up the lights. The manufacturer will include information about amperage and wattage, and it will provide information on how to properly use the lights. Make sure you follow these instructions to remain as safe as possible.

Striking a Cord with Safety

Christmas light electrical safety White's Electrical Indianapolis

Courtesy State Farm, “Holiday fire safety – Power strip overload”

Cords require their own section in this safety list, as misuse of these devices abound. Safety tips for electrical cords during the holidays include:

  • Plug outdoor lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These interrupters disrupt electricity if a short occurs in the line (with your body possibly being the cause of the short). Portable outdoor GFCIs are available if your circuits aren’t protected with GFCIs.
  • Make sure the amperage of outdoor lighting meets the amperage of the cords you’re using. In other words, only use cords that can handle the load you’re putting on them.
  • Do not ever overload multiple plug outlets. Overloading an outlet produces considerable heat and can cause fires.
  • Similarly, never string multiple plug outlets together. Only ever plug these devices into an electrical receptacle in the wall.
  • Keep cords out of standing water and snow.
  • Only use extension cords outside that are approved for outdoor use.
  • Keep cords out of high-traffic areas so they don’t become frayed or worn. If they cross a walkway, make sure to protect them with a cord cover.
  • Likewise, do not place cords under rugs, carpets, through doors, or through windows. Do not place them in any place where they will be pinched and worn.
  • Remove leaves that collect on top of cords. When leaves dry out, they can easily catch fire.

While You String Up the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED Lights

Safety first: Don’t stand on metal ladders when handling live electrical wires.

  1. String up your lights before you plug them into an electrical outlet. This will help ensure you do not accidentally electrocute yourself if the light strand becomes damaged. If you have to replace bulbs at some point, make sure you unplug the cord again before doing so.
  2. Do not hang the lights in a way that damages the wires’ insulation. Don’t, for example, use push pins to hold up the wires.
  3. Stand on a wooden or fiberglass ladder while hanging lights. Metal ladders conduct electricity, so you are more at risk of electrocution while on one.
  4. Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines at all times.

Where to Safely Place Christmas Lights

Don’t let light bulbs rest on tree needles or branches, especially if you’re using incandescent lights and a natural tree. The heat from the bulbs may light the tree on fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2010-14 that Christmas tree fires caused $16.2 million in property damage every year, and the U.S. Fire Administration states that electrical problems caused a third of these fires.

Besides making sure bulbs don’t rest on the branches, make sure you keep the trees away from sources of heat, such as multiprong plugs, heat registers, and fires.

Once You’re Finished with the Lights

Christmas Holiday Electrical Safety - White's Electrical Indianapolis Indiana LED LightsBefore going to bed at the end of the night, make sure to unplug your Christmas lights. Practically, few people will see the lights through the night, so you will be wasting money. In terms of safety, turning off the lights will allow them and their surroundings time to cool after producing heat for several hours. You also want to be away in case a fire did begin in order to combat it or leave the premises.

Likewise, if you’re leaving your house, turn off your lights to eliminate the risk of a fire. If you still want your lights to turn on at night, hook them up to a timer.

Reasons Lights Burn Out or Don’t Work

Indianapolis Indiana White's Electrical lights lightbulb burned out

From time to time, we all encounter problems with the lights in our home or business. Maybe the lights flicker, or maybe they don’t turn on.

While it’s tempting for do-it-yourselfers to repair the problem themselves, we suggest home and business owners hire a licensed electrician to repair most electrical systems. Electrical systems cause more than 45,000 home-based fires a year, which result in an average of 420 deaths and 1,370 injuries; and multiple non-home-based fires, which result about 12 deaths per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. We don’t want your home or business to be included in these statistics!

Diagnosing common electrical problems with lights, however, doesn’t always take a licensed electrician, and some problems are easy to fix. Below are some common issues that home and business owners face with lighting, along with likely causes for the problems.

The Lights Won’t Turn On

If the lights in your home or business won’t turn on and the outage is contained to a particular area of the building, the breaker might have been tripped. If the breaker has been tripped, all appliances and electrical receptacles in a specific area will be without power.

You can fix the problem by flipping back on the circuit breakers in the electrical box. Make sure you’re not overloading the circuit by demanding too much power from it. If you have too many appliances drawing power from one circuit, the breaker will trip again, cutting off power to the area.

If the lights in all areas of your home or business are off and no electrical equipment works, there may be a general power outage. Call your utility company in this case.

Lightbulbs Frequently Burn Out and Some Get Extra Bright

There are several reasons why lighting in a particular area of your home or business burn out frequently, and it may not simply be that you’re overusing them.

If only one lightbulb dies quickly, you don’t have to assume something is wrong with your electrical system — the individual bulb may have been flawed or a temporary surge may have caused it to burn out. However, when multiple bulbs go out in a circuit or the same bulb continually dies, the problem likely lies in the electrical system.

A loose connection in the lightbulb socket or in the circuit can cause lights to burn out because electricity isn’t flowing through the system as designed. Another cause for frequently burned out bulbs is a bad neutral connection. If electronic equipment other than lightbulbs is also dying, it may be a sign of a bad connection.

Lights Flicker and Dim

When lights flicker and dim, it may also signal that your circuit has a poor connection. Poor connections may lead to arching, a fire hazard where electricity jumps outside the proper electric channel.

Lights Flicker When Windy

If your lights flicker when it’s windy, the problem lies outside your house. The wiring in your weatherhead (the fitting where electric cables from the power line come into your home or business) has likely been frayed. If you are experiencing this issue, contact your utility company. The problem is more than an annoyance — the frayed wiring can arch and start a fire or short your electric system and leave you without power.

Recessed Lights Sometimes Don’t Work

If your recessed lights keep turning off, it may be a sign that they’re overheating. When designed properly, recessed lighting shuts off when it gets too hot to prevent fires. So if the lights are placed near insulation, they may turn off frequently because they heat they produce is trapped.

Other reasons recessed lights may overheat and automatically turn off are 1) the wrong bulb wattage is being used or 2) the wrong style of bulb is being used.

Know When to Call a Professional

No matter the state of the electrical system in your home or business, a licensed electrician can make sure everything is functioning properly and, most importantly, safely. If you are having problems with the lights in your home or business, call White’s Electrical to see how we can help you!

Motion Sensor Lights for Your Home

motion sensor lights

Motion sensor lights can help calm your nerves by lighting up a dark garage, sidewalk, or any other area of your yard. Whether you want to install motion sensor lights for added home security, or to help you see when you’re coming home at night, you’ll feel safer when nearby motion activates your motion sensor lighting and they turn on automatically.

How Motion Sensor Lights Work

Motion sensor lights work by using small electronic “eyes” to detect infrared waves, or heat waves that radiate from moving objects. When the detector senses moving objects in its range of “vision” it automatically turns on the lights. The lights typically stay on for up to 20 minutes, depending on how the timer is set. They automatically shut off the light at this time unless they continue to sense movement.

Choosing Motion Sensor Lights

Most people choose to install motion sensor lighting for either added security or added safety. Although motion sensor lights aren’t actually advertised for the sole purpose of security or safety, it gives the homeowner a starting point for choosing what will meet their needs. Security-based lights are designed to deter criminals from the property, while safety-based lights are designed to light up darkened areas.

When choosing the right motion sensor light, it’s important to decide how easily you want the light to be triggered. Broadly speaking, there are two types of motion sensors used in lights: active-motion and passive-motion. Active-motion sensor lights send out signals that then return to the motion sensor. When an object has moved in front of the sensor, the signal returns to the sensor quickly, which triggers the light. Active-motion sensors can be triggered by any moving object, including people, animals, or blowing leaves. Passive-motion sensor lights only receive signals, and scan the area for heat. Only objects that emit heat (a human body) trigger the sensor to turn on the light.

Installing Motion Sensor Lights

For your motion sensor lighting to be most effective, position the lights to cover walkways to your door and driveway. If safety is a concern, place lights to cover areas such as decks, patios, and pools. If security is a priority, position lights to cover all entrances to your house, and any darker areas of your yard.

Motion sensor lights are typically easy to install, but each brand is different, so be sure to read the instructions before you begin. And remember – safety first! If you aren’t completely sure of your electrical knowledge, call a local licensed electrician for help.

Motion sensor lights can help ease your mind in the dark, and White’s Electrical can help. From choosing the right lights, to finding the best locations and completing the installation, the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical are happy to help. Give us a call today!

DIY or a Licensed Electrician? – When to Call

DIY electrical work

With access to thousands of instructional videos and articles on the internet, the Do-It-Yourself movement is gaining a lot of followers these days. A DIY enthusiast loves taking on any odd job around the house. However, with some electrical jobs, it may be smarter to call a licensed electrician than to DIY.

Most people know that working with electricity carries the risk of electrical shock or even electrocution, but don’t forget that faulty home wiring is a common cause of home fires. While the DIY mindset may be a great way to gain experience and upgrade your home on a budget, make sure you’re equipped before taking on a DIY electrical job. Here’s how to know when to DIY and when to hire a licensed electrician.

Electrical Jobs to DIY

If you’re handy and have the right tools, you certainly don’t need to call a professional for every electrical job. Depending on your experience, there are some electrical jobs that you can do yourself.

For example, the following jobs can be handled by most people.

  • Replacing a light switch
  • Replacing a light fixture
  • Rewiring a broken lamp
  • Replacing an electrical outlet

These jobs require only a few common household tools. While these jobs are rather basic, it is always important to put safety first. Always make sure to turn the power off at power mains before beginning a job, and always make sure that all wires are screwed firmly in place to avoid a fire hazard.

Electrical Jobs for a Licensed Electrician

The majority of electrical work should only be handled by a professional. Even if you feel confident in your ability to DIY, there may be building and electrical codes to follow that you aren’t aware of. Failure to follow these codes could render your insurance invalid, or leave you liable in the event of a fire. A licensed electrician will have a good working knowledge of the codes and will easily be able to comply to keep you and your home safe.

So, when should you call an electrician? Here are some of the most common electrical jobs that should only be handled by a licensed electrician.

  • Electrical panel or breaker box work
  • Rewiring parts or all of the home
  • Electrical code correction
  • Installing new circuits or dedicated circuits

Electrical Services in Indianapolis

Although some DIYers may be hesitant to call a professional, knowing when to call a licensed electrician can save you time and money in the long run. Most electricians insure their work, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the job was done right. Call the licensed electricians at White’s Electrical today.