How to Prepare Your Home for the Holidays (Tips from Your Local Electricians)
You may be preparing for holiday guests and devising an epic decoration strategy, but is your home electrical system up to the task?
With all there is to do, see, and experience during the holidays, electrical system maintenance isn’t on the top of anyone’s list.
At least, not until the lights go out, the music stops, and festivities have to be put on hold.
Don’t get caught off guard by tripped circuits, deflated holiday decorations, or lights that flicker more than they twinkle.
Check out these holiday electrical tips from local electricians to prepare your home for the holidays and keep your home and loved ones safe.
Consider your electrical panel’s power capabilities when making your holiday plans. Can it safely and efficiently handle the increased electrical load of the season?
The holiday season typically means more people at home, whether you are taking time off work, hosting family, or expecting children home from college.
This means more appliances are being used more often, each one pulling electricity into your home.
On any given afternoon, you could have a load of laundry in the washing machine, that evening’s casserole cooking in the oven, leftovers heating in the microwave, and your holiday cookie recipe coming together in the stand mixer.
Running all of these appliances at once could put a strain on your home’s electrical system.
And if you plan to throw additional electrical items into the mix—such as an extra freezer, tools for a remodeling project, or upgraded kitchen appliances—you could run the risk of an overloaded panel.
Avoid frustrations (or even emergency issues) in the middle of the holiday season by contacting your local electricians now to assess your current electrical panel.
Are you looking forward to a calmer holiday season? Your electrical panel could still be overdue for an inspection.
Frequently tripped circuits or flickering lights could signal that your electrical service panel needs an inspection.
Even if you haven’t been having electrical issues, this is a good time to open up your panel and look for any signs of wear. The circuit breakers in the panel play a key role in keeping your home safe from electrical hazards. They stop the flow of electricity in cases of overload.
Signs that your electrical panel is in need of repair include:
- Rust – Rust inside the electrical panel indicates the presence of water, and water and electricity are a dangerous mix.
- Tripping circuit breakers – This could be caused by overloaded or faulty circuits or an undersized wire.
- Scorching – Signs of overheating inside the electrical panel, such as scorch marks or melting, can indicate a breakdown in the wiring that could lead to a fire.
- Bad or old wiring – Wiring can show signs of wear and tear over time and need replacing. Plus, bad wiring practices put your home and family at risk.
- Dimming or flickering lights – This can be caused by bad wiring or an overloaded electrical panel.
If you notice any of these signs, call experienced local electricians to discuss replacement or repairs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Getting a permit for electrical work like this can take some time, even up to a few weeks. The sooner the project can be started, the less likely it is to interrupt your holiday plans.
Once you are all set with your electrical panel, it is time to assess the rest of your home’s electrical system.
The next stop for preparing your home’s electrical system for the holidays is inspecting your indoor and outdoor outlets.
Plugging into your home’s electricity should be a simple process. But electrical hazards can develop as our homes age and we add to the electrical strain.
Knowing the warning signs to look for—and some essential outlet safety tips—can go a long way toward keeping your home and your loved ones safe.
For indoor outlets, remember these tips to avoid electrical hazards:
- Cover unused outlets to keep young guests safe. The few seconds it takes to place these inexpensive plastic outlet covers is well worth the peace of mind of keeping little ones safe. If you frequently have younger children in your home, you might consider upgrading to tamper-resistant outlets.
- Don’t overload the outlet. If you’re plugging in extra appliances, electronics, or decorations during the holiday season, it’s worth picking up a few surge protectors to lighten the load on your home’s outlets. This extra step can prevent tripped circuits and reduce other electrical risks. And while power strips are cheaper and can help in a pinch, surge protectors take that extra step of protecting your electrical items from—you guessed it—damaging power surges.
- Know when an outlet needs to be replaced. Outlets do wear out, and safety technology is improving all the time.
If you notice any of these warning signs, stop using that outlet until you can get it replaced:
- The outlet doesn’t work. This could indicate a larger problem with your electrical system.
- Plugs frequently fall out of the outlet, or the outlet is loose. Any interruption to the electrical circuit could cause an arc or sparks behind the wall.
- The outlet is cracked or warped. This can allow flammable materials like dust or pet hair to enter the outlet.
- The outlet has scorch marks, or you notice a burned smell or smoke. This could indicate a short circuit and requires an inspection by a qualified electrician.
- The outlet only has only two-prongs. The third prong gives electricity a path to follow to the ground in case of a short circuit or fault and helps prevent electrical hazards.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While a homeowner can typically handle an outlet replacement, your local electricians can perform a more thorough inspection for hidden problems in your home’s wiring or electrical system.
When it comes to outdoor outlet safety, consider your power needs for holiday lighting and decorations.
Many homeowners do not realize that their standard outdoor outlets carry both indoor and outdoor loads. So your holiday lights might look beautiful when you first turn them on and then trip a circuit the second someone turns on the bathroom fan.
Learn more about the warning signs of an overloaded electrical system here.
The solution to keeping your holiday decorations on without tripping a circuit is to have dedicated outdoor GFCI outlets installed.
Ground fault circuit interrupters (or GFCI for short) are designed to automatically shut off the flow of electricity when they sense a power surge. These outlets help to prevent electrical shock. They are required in areas of the home exposed to water or moisture, including the outdoors.
If your outdoor outlets are not GFCI outlets, contact your local electricians about outlet installation.
When planning for electrical decorations for your yard—especially any with a motor—be sure to use dedicated GFCI outlets that do not share a circuit with another part of the house to avoid overload.
If you do not have dedicated GFCI outlets, contact your local electricians today for a free estimate for installation.
And since this type of electrical work does require a permit (which can take some time), plan for your holiday electrical needs now to avoid holiday hiccups.
The next step to preparing your home for the holidays? Proper installation and use of lights and other decorations.
Do you have plans to transform your front yard into a spooky spectacle or a winter wonderland? Or do you prefer sparkling icicles from the roof and an electric candle in every window?
Whatever your style, following a holiday decoration safety checklist can ensure your display is as incredible as you’ve envisioned and your home and loved ones are safe.
Holiday Decorating Safety Checklist:
- Inspect your current lighting and decorations for signs of wear. Damaged, frayed, or exposed electrical wires can pose a serious risk, and those decorations should be discarded.
- Use lights, decorations, and other electrical equipment with the correct rating. Decorations you plan to use outside should be rated for outdoor use because they can withstand weathering and moisture without putting your home at risk. Also, be sure that all lights have a UL, SA, or ETL safety rating before using them in or around your home.
- Use extension cords correctly. Use the correct rating, check the amperage limits, and do not overload them. For a more detailed explanation of safe extension cord use, check out EFSI’s Extension Cord Safety Tips.
- Be aware of powerlines. Make sure you know where any powerlines cross your property, and keep a distance of at least ten feet when constructing your display.
- Keep wires, plugs, and outlets off the ground outside. This reduces the chance of water collecting on the electrical components and causing a safety hazard.
- Do not run electrical cords over walkways. Run cords along walls and walkways—not across—to avoid creating tripping hazards.
- Do not use lighting and other electric decorations in wet areas. This means places like pools, aquariums, and ponds. As lovely as lights look reflecting off the water, water is a great conductor of electricity and could create an unsafe situation for you and your loved ones.
- Use a wood or fiberglass ladder when hanging decorations. Electricity loves metal, so using a ladder made of another material will reduce the risk of electrical shock in case of an accident.
- For lights, remember the rule of three. Most manufacturers recommend connecting no more than three strands of lights to a single extension cord to avoid overload and other electrical hazards.
- Replace incandescent lights with LED lights. LEDs don’t get hot to the touch like traditional incandescent bulbs, which are hazardous around flammable materials (including Christmas trees). Plus, LED lights have a longer life and use less electricity. (Your electric bill will thank you.)
- Secure lights and cords with plastic light clips. Unsecured cords can be damaged by wind or cause a tripping hazard. Metal staples and nails conduct electricity and can damage the cord’s insulation.
- Turn off lights and decorations when you’re not home and before bed. The quicker you can act in an emergency, the better—especially when it comes to keeping you and your loved ones safe.
Keep this list developed by local electricians handy for yourself and anyone you’ve recruited to your decoration team. That way, the worst holiday decor hazard you will have to deal with is detangling the string lights—again.
The final step to preparing your home for the holidays is ensuring your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.
Even if you’ve taken every precaution to keep your home and family safe this holiday season, it is best to be prepared. Set a reminder on your calendar or phone to check your smoke alarms once a month.
The NFPA recommends placing smoke detectors
- Inside each bedroom
- Outside sleeping areas
- On every level of the home
Check out the NFPA guide for more tips on installing and maintaining smoke detectors.
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should also be placed in most homes.
If you have an appliance or heater that burns fuel, a fireplace, or an attached garage, make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide detector placed near the main bedroom. Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should also be tested regularly.
There’s no place like home for the holidays, especially when we know our home can safely handle everything we ask of it.
An ounce of prevention is well worth knowing that you and your loved ones can enjoy the season safely—and without interruptions for electrical work.
If you find anything concerning while preparing your home for the holidays, give your local electricians at Taddeo Electric a call to schedule a free estimate. Your safety is our top priority during every season of the year.
And remember, now is the time to begin any holiday electrical work. We strive to complete estimates quickly. However, the average timeline for acquiring permits and materials and completing the project is several weeks or longer.
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