Want to know how to keep your Christmas lights safe and if you need to get your Christmas tree lights PAT tested? Check out our guide to Christmas light safety!
November and December are the time of year when millions of homes and buildings across the UK are adorned with flashing festive lights.
However, you need to take care of your Christmas lights. If they aren’t properly maintained, they can cause an electric shock or fire. And that doesn’t make for a Merry Christmas. In fact, according to RoSPA, 350 people a year are injured by Christmas tree lights.
Here is our comprehensive guide to Christmas light safety, from buying them online and taking them down when ringing in the New Year, to whether your lights have to be PAT tested.
Please enjoy and remember… Broken and faulty Christmas lights are ‘snow joke’!
Step one: All I want for Christmas is… new lights!
If you need to buy new lights online, buy them from a reputable retailer.
Counterfeit lights may look like the real deal. However, they have been manufactured in countries where safety regulations are a lot less strict.
Which? tested a selection of Christmas tree lights bought from eBay, Wish, and Amazon and found 90% of them failed to meet UK safety standards.
This means these lights are more likely to give you a dangerous electric shock or cause a fire.
Here are our top tips for buying festive lights online:
- Buy from an official retailer or high street store if you can
- Look at the online reviews, Are they very negative or full of fake-sounding positive reviews?
- Look at the address of the company. If it is a PO box address or not based in the UK, it could be a red flag
- Look at purchasing LED lights – these operate at a low voltage and use less power, not only making them safer but less expensive to run too
When your lights arrive, look for the following. They are all signs you should not use them:
- The lights arrive in flimsy packaging, or no packaging at all
- The lights feel lighter than expected. This may mean they are missing vital safety components
- The plug socket is cracked, the cable is frayed or the plug pins are loose
- The lights don’t carry both the CE mark and WEEE logo, or the logos look suspicious
- The lights do not come with instructions
Step two: Rocking around the Christmas tree
Your Christmas lights will have been in storage for a good ten or eleven months before you need to pop them on your tree. A quick visual check will help you make sure they are safe and have not been damaged in storage.
Check the following:
- Turn the lights on before you decorate the tree. After all, you want to make sure they work before you start throwing on the lights, tinsel, and baubles! Take the lights out of the packaging and unwind them before you flick the switch
- Look and see if the cable is split, knotted, or damaged. If the wires are exposed then it’s a sign you need to treat yourself to some new lights!
- Don’t forget the plug! It shouldn’t be cracked or damaged, and the pins shouldn’t wobble
Once you’ve got your lights out of the loft or basement and spent half a day trying to untangle them… it’s time to decorate! Here are our top tips for making sure you deck the halls safely:
- Keep Christmas lights away from cards, decorations, and presents – anything that is flammable
- Avoid extension leads where possible, and don’t plug them into one another to cover more ground
- If any bulbs fail, replace them straight away to avoid overheating
- Turn the lights off overnight or when you are out of the building. A timer can help
- If you smell or see smoke, unplug your lights immediately. We may all enjoy the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire… but not singed lights!
Don’t forget to keep your Christmas tree safe too. A real Christmas tree can look beautiful, but it can be more dangerous than a fake one.
Dry, unwatered Christmas trees increase the risk of fire spreading, which can potentially be lethal.
If you have a real tree, be sure to keep it well-watered, and avoid using hairspray to keep the needles in place.
If you have a metal Christmas tree, don’t use lights on it.
Step three: Oh, the weather outside is frightful…
As well as indoor decorations, you may have lots of twinkly lights to put outside too.
Snow, ice, and water can be dangerous when combined with electricity, so you need to take care when putting your lights up. Here are our top tips:
- Don’t use indoor lights outdoors – they may not be waterproof. If you have outdoor lights, make sure the plugs and transformers are plugged in indoors
- If you’re hanging lights outside, use a wooden ladder. A metal ladder can conduct electricity
- Use an extension lead or adaptor specifically designed for outdoor use
- Keep cables away from the damp, snow, and ice, and dry your hands before handling lights
- Don’t run cables through doors or windows. This can pinch and stretch the cable, causing damage
Step four: Should old acquaintance be forgot
The Christmas jumpers have been neatly folded and put back in the cupboard, everyone is fed up with turkey sandwiches and it’s time to put the tree away.
Here’s what to bear in mind when taking your lights down.
- Don’t pull the lights down – this can damage the cables
- Check the bulbs and cables for any damage. If there is any, it might be time to buy new lights ready for next year!
- Wipe the lights with a cloth to remove dust, moisture, and any festive debris before you put them away
- Store your lights safely, away from moisture, heat, and rodents. A sealed plastic container can help keep them safe
Do I need to PAT test Christmas lights?
While PAT testing isn’t a legal requirement in the workplace, it can be one of the best ways to ensure you protect your staff, visitors, and customers.
If your Christmas lights plug into the mains, then PAT testing, sometimes referred to as electrical equipment testing, means you can make sure your lights are safe and will last whole of the holidays. (If your Christmas lights are battery-powered, they don’t need PAT testing.)
We carry out over seven million PAT tests a year, meaning when Christmas rolls around, you’re good to go. From councils’ festive light displays to office decorations, we’ve tested them all!
An electrician will carry out a range of tests to make sure your festive lights are not only safe, but will last the entire season.
After all… the only thing that should go ‘bang’ on the 25th of December is the Christmas crackers!