Replace the cord, don’t cut it

By Stephen Sardone

After gobbling up that big Thanksgiving meal, possibly snoozing in your big easy chair and yelling at the TV at the Dallas Cowboys, there is little time to enjoy the leftovers. 

The pressure is on to ready the house for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmastime, and it can be as tough as Santa’s boot.    

While Black Friday means shopping for some, for many it is time to plan for the next big extravaganza. You may be revisiting places that you haven’t seen in months, like the attic, shed, off-site storage facility, garage shelves or wherever you kept last year’s holiday decorations.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and home decorating for the holidays wasn’t meant to be completed in a day. Take your time, make a list, and consider some of these helpful tips.

Starting with the outside of your house, Christmas lights are both naughty and nice. They look great when illuminated on a home, but can be a potential danger. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, December is the deadliest month for electrical fires, and outdoor lights are a culprit.

Carefully inspect your strings of lights before you attach them to the house or windows. Stretch out the strands and check for frays or cracks. If you find any, dispose of that string of lights immediately. That set of lights is probably old and may need to be replaced. Don’t mess around with electrical tape, or you may end up in red tape with your insurance company.

Never affix outdoor holiday lights to a metal gutter or eave. You want to make it to Christmas Eve. 

 Replace any broken lights and toss them with the bad cords. When replacing bulbs, studies always insist you unplug the light string and are careful to match voltage and wattage to the original bulb. This will help prevent any accidental fires. Make sure that all new cords have been tested and have the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) endorsement. And don’t scrimp, as cheap lights can be inferior.

Once installed, make sure that the holiday lights are off when you go out for the evening or when you go to bed. Timers are no longer luxury items, they are a necessity. An outdoor timer provides a good checks and balance.

Inside the home, make sure that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in optimal working order.

If you are using a freshly cut tree, make sure that it is regularly watered and trim away any branches that look the least bit dry. And needless to say, keep the tree away from candles and open hearths. 

Make sure that clutter, particularly any potentially flammable item like paper, is a safe distance from the tree.

An indoor timer or smart outlet should also be used to monitor tree lights. Set the timer for non-peak energy consumption times. After 7 p.m. is usually a good practice. And like the outdoor lights, turn off the Christmas tree lights before you retire for the night or if no one is at home. Check extension cords or auxiliary lighting wires (such as spotlights) in the same manner that you troubleshoot the outdoor strands. Always use an extension cord that is long enough to reach the electrical outlet, and never connect more than one extension cord together.

 Be prepared and safe in installing the holiday decorations. A little planning will allow you to enjoy these times with less stress. Leave the angst to your last-minute shopping.