Black Press file photo

Bright ideas for home lighting during National Home Fire Safety Week

Tips to keep your home safe as Christmas lights go up

During the holiday season, it’s important to enjoy time spent with family and friends. It is also the time of year where most Canadians are using a lot of electricity with additional Christmas lights on, the furnace running, spacer heaters on, the stove cooking dinner, plugging in your vehicles so they start and all the new gadgets getting plugged in.

National Home Fire Safety Week is November 24-30 and this year, the Canada Safety Council is partnering with Danatec to ensure that Canadians are taking steps to keep their holiday celebrations free of unexpected tragedy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these electrical safety tips:

Don’t use damaged extension cords. Whether it’s because you were shovelling the snow or pulling too hard on the extension cord, sometimes the cord gets damaged. If your extension cord is damaged at the plug or the sheathing, do not use the cord. The damage may cause you to get an electric shock. Repairing the cord with electrical tape is not recommended and will not ensure that it is safe to use the cord in the long run.

Use timers on outdoor lights. Using timers for your outdoor holiday lights is not only a great way to ensure that they are on before you’re home, but is also a great way to be environmentally conscious. A timer will also shut off the lights before you go to bed, saving you money on your power bill. You won’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to plug or unplug the lights. Turning off the lights before going to bed prevents the light bulbs from overheating in the night, and setting them on a timer ensures that it’s not a task that might slip your mind.

Don’t plug in more than one space heater into an outlet. Whether it’s at home or in the office, outlets can only handle one portable space heater. As soon as you plug in that second one, you’ll trip the breaker. Most home outlets are rated for only a single 12 amp or 1500 watt load. Check your space heater and any other electrical device that you’re plugging to ensure it doesn’t exceed this rating.

Plug in your outdoor lights to ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. Most modern houses have GFCI outlets on the exterior of your home to plug in holiday lights and other electrical equipment. The benefit of a GFCI outlet is electric shock protection for you when using portable cord- and-plug connected electrical equipment in an indoor or outdoor environment.

This is especially true around wet environments, which is why you’ll typically find GFCI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms and on the outside of your house. The GFCI outlet trips when there is an electrical current on an unintended path – through water, for instance. Considering it’s winter and there’s always snow around the corner, make sure you always plug your holiday lights into GFCI outlets.

Hit that test and reset button. While we’re on the topic of GFCI outlets, think of hitting that test and reset button before you plug in your device. You want the GFCI to work to protect you from being electrocuted should there ever be an electrical fault. Consider doing this in the bathrooms in your house and on outside outlets at least once a month or ask your family or guests to test the GFCI before they use the outlet. It’s better to ensure the protection is working long before you need it.

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