Electricians Guide to Holiday Lights: Prevent Power Outages and Stay Safe

Image of Christmas lights installed on home's exterior

December is here! Alongside streams of icicles and trays of gingerbread cookies, comes the emergence of holiday lights throughout Vancouver. Unfortunately, this dose of electrical holiday cheer comes with the occasional power issue. Each year, our electrical contractors are called to help homeowners with power outages caused by holiday lights. Completely preventable in most cases, we want to help save you the cost and stress this season to minimize power interruptions. Here’s how you can stay safe this holiday season:

1.    Identify The Risks

Understanding what can go wrong is the first step to home electrical safety. After your yard is beaming with lights, it’s only a matter of time before your first outage occurs. While it’s possible you may lose power only in the lights themselves, the rest of your home could succumb into darkness right alongside them.

To keep your eggnog from curdling in your fridge, be aware of the following threats to your electrical safety:


  • Overloaded Circuits. All those lights require a TON of electricity, and your circuits are only designed to handle a certain amount. When the circuits are overloaded, the electric circuit breaker will cut off to prevent the wiring from overheating. While this is a much-needed safety precaution, opening presents in the dark is far from ideal.
  • Electrical Shorts. When the flow of electricity gets misdirected, you may experience an electrical short, cutting off your power. This can occur if the wiring of your lights is old or damaged but can be prevented by a quick pre-hang inspection.
  • As a residential electrician in Vancouver, we know that electricity and water don’t mix. While outdoor holiday lights are designed to withstand the elements, minimizing their contact with moisture keeps your home safe and lit.

2.    Choose Your Lights Carefully

Scrutinizing each bulb on your 50ft string of lights may not be your first choice of fun holiday activities. However, looking for broken bulbs and cut or frayed wiring is crucial to your electrical safety. To prevent power outages, our electricians recommend you take the following holiday light precautions:


  • Replace Old or Damaged Lights. From broken bulbs or empty sockets to frayed cords with wires sticking out, these damages could lead to electrical shocks when plugged in. While it may be a drag to shell out money for new lights, it’s a lot cheaper than paying for the after-effects of an electrical fire.
  • UL-Listed. Not all lights are created equal. Whether you’re bringing out your old string of lights or purchasing new ones, make sure they have a UL Safety Certification. This means they’ve been designed and manufactured to meet industry safety standards and will be the safest option to use in your home.
  • Switch to LED Lights. If you’re looking to save some money this holiday season, making the switch to LED lights could spare you energy and lower your electricity bill. More importantly, they’re the safer option as they’re less likely to overheat compared to conventional bulbs.

3.    Hang Your Lights with Care

As your residential electrician, we have a few tips to help you hang your lights like a pro. For indoor and outdoor lights, keep these safety tips in mind this holiday season:


  • Rule of Three. When it comes to your holiday lights, plugging more than three sets into a single extension cord could cause overheating. While this depends on the wattage of both the strands and the plugs maximum capacity, abiding by the rule of three prevents power outages and fires.
  • Use Clips, Not Nails. Prevent puncturing the wire on your outdoor holiday lights by using clips instead of nails or screws. This also keeps you from damaging your roof with unnecessary hammering and holes.
  • Water Your Tree. If your household is putting up a real tree with lights, make sure you keep the tree hydrated. Dry pine needles and branches promote fires when in proximity to warm lights. For real trees, check the water levels daily. Some may need to be rewatered once or twice per day; however, this is specific to every tree. If you want to skip the hassle, fake trees are a safe and hassle-free alternative. You can even get some pine needle spray if you’re missing that natural, forest scent.
  • Use a GFCI Outlet. When hanging lights outdoors, a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) acts as a circuit breaker to prevent electrical shock when in contact with moisture from rain, snow, etc. If your home doesn’t already have these, our electricians can install them no problem.

Need an Electrician?

If you’re looking for an electrician to keep your home safe this holiday season, BPM Electric brings the holiday cheer and home electrical expertise. While we can’t promise we’ll show up in big red suits, we do guarantee safe, quality, and professional installs and repairs. Reach out to one of our trusted residential electricians today!