‘Going Griswold’ This Holiday Season?

13-12-16 Christmas house decoration

Safe Holiday Decorating Tips From Walton EMC

The movie “Christmas Vacation” is a holiday staple at our house. One of the funniest scenes involves dad Clark Griswold struggling to power an over-the-top holiday lighting display. When the lights finally come on, they’re blindingly bright, setting off a hilarious sequence of events.

What’s not so funny to those of us in the electricity business is the scene depicting the Griswold basement where seemingly hundreds of power cords are plugged into a single outlet. We know it’s an accident waiting to happen. When not used properly, decorations — particularly overloaded circuits — can create safety hazards or cause fires.

Tempted to “go Griswold” with your holiday decorations?

Do it safely to protect your home and those who live there.

If you’re tempted to “go Griswold” at your house this holiday season, by all means go for it — just be sure to do it safely to protect your home and those who live there. Begin by reading the manufacturer’s instructions for each item and then follow them. In addition, use these best practices to help you avoid common electrical hazards and fires that could be sparked by both exterior and interior holiday decorations.


  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, loose connections, or frayed or bare wires. Discard all damaged cords.
  • When decorating outside, keep ladders and decorations away from overhead power lines.
  • Ensure the ladder is securely placed on the ground before climbing.
  • Lights should be approved by Underwriters Laboratory. “UL” will be clearly displayed on the tag, signifying the product has been inspected for potential safety hazards. Red UL marks indicate the lights are safe for indoor/outdoor use, and green UL marks indicate the lights are only safe for indoor use.
  • Don't connect lights while adjusting them on a tree or house. Inspect lights and plug them together before hanging.
  • Don’t hammer tacks or nails into the electrical cord when hanging lights. Instead, use clips to safely attach lights to the house.
  • Use a timer or turn off lights before going to bed, or if you will be away from home.
  • For special ornaments that plug into a bulb receptacle, use no more than two per strand, or check the manufacturer's directions.
  • Buy LED lights. They last up to 20 times longer than traditional incandescent lights and generate less heat. They don't get hot to the touch, so they're far safer.
  • Decorate with battery-operated candles instead of traditional wax candles, which are the source of almost half of all home decoration fires. They provide the same effect as a burning candle, but are much less dangerous.
  • Never drape anything over a light bulb or lampshade.

Cords and Outlets

  • To hook up your outdoor lighting, use a heavy-duty, three-prong grounded extension cord that is designated for outdoor use.
  • Uncoil extension cords completely before using, and be sure to place them away from heat sources and bulbs.
  • If possible, outdoor lights and inflatable decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCIs help prevent electric shock by breaking the circuit when differences in the currents of hot and neutral wires occur.
  • Don't overload outlets or extension cords. Never connect more than three strands of incandescent lights per extension cord because they could blow a fuse and increase the risk of an electrical hazard or fire. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to become familiar with how many strands are safe for LED holiday lights.
  • Keep cords out of water and away from metal objects.
  • Never place cords under rugs and doors or through windows where they might be pinched or become worn. Avoid twisting, kinking or crushing cords.

By taking the proper precautions both inside and outside of your home, you can prevent hazards and focus on friends and family during the holidays. Don’t forget to periodically check lights and decorations throughout the season to ensure they continue to operate safely.

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