Be safe when decorating your home for the holidays

‘Tis the season – to decorate for the holidays. Your home usually is your haven – a safe place, a refuge – but be sure it doesn’t turn into a dangerous place when you are decorating. About 76% of Americans decorate their homes for Christmas. Do not be like Clark Griswold in the movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” where the electric system is overtaxed and Clark is left hanging off the roof.

»OUTDOORS: When you first get your lights out, you should use testers to check for damaged sockets, bad bulbs or blown fuses, and make any necessary repairs. Use only outdoor-rated extension chords and lights when stringing lights outside. Keep chords out of the way of doorways and pathways. Outdoor lights should never be submerged and avoid leaving open sockets. Always read and follow instructions. Incandescent bulbs are not as energy – efficient as LED bulbs (remember not to overload circuits). Even LED lights can overheat and cause a firs if exposed to dry leaves or flammable substances. When used properly, LED lights are safe and an energy-efficient way to add lighting outdoors while cutting costs.

» INDOORS: Never go it alone when stringing holiday lights. Make sure someone is there to hold the ladder steady as you climb up and down. Partnering up when stringing holiday lights allows decorators to use both of their hands to climb up ladders instead of using one of their hands to carry lights. Once they reach a point where it’s safe, they can have a helper hand them the lights. Electricity is one of the most dangerous hazards in your home, especially if you have pets. Pets, like children, are unaware of the dangers posed by plugs, wires and electrical device in the home. Because children and pets are naturally curious, they may begin to play with or chew on your electrical items, posing a fire or shock risk that could result in injury. Lights can overheat when placed beneath rugs and lights that are not properly secured to a wall can pose certain dangers, including being potential tripping hazards. Never place them beneath furniture or rugs.

The top three days for home fires started by candles are Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. To avoid a disaster, keep candles at least one foot away from anything flammable. Make sure candles are in stable holders that can’t be easily knocked down, and never leave burning candles unattended.

» PLANTS: Eating mistletoes actually is toxic. Keep them away from pets, along with other potentially poisonous plants such as holly berries, Jerusalem cherry, poinsettias and amaryllis.

» CHRISTMAS TREE: If using a live tree, be sure it is fresh and keep it watered. Be sure it is properly secured. Keep live trees away from heat sources. Place your tree away from fireplaces and heaters. When stringing lights, mentally divide the tree into three triangular sections. A good rule of thumb is for every foot of tree, you should use 100 lights. So, if you have a five foot tree, you probably will be using 500 lights. Of course, you could use more or less depending on your budget and preference. The size of the bulb can determine how many lights you use. String lights by starting the string at the bottom of the tree and pulling it up to the top, then back down like a mountain. Continue to zig-zag up and down the tree. Once you’ve wrapped the tree, tuck the strands farther in on the branches to make room for ornaments.

You don’t need to compete with the neighbor’s decorations, and you should stay within your budget and your limitations. Enjoy the season and the decorations. Don’t forget Christmas is about love, family, sharing and giving. And please be safe. Happy holiday decorating form the Lynchburg Association of Realtors.