Consumer Corner: ’Tis the season to beware

December 17, 2012 

Could your electrical decorations be a booby trap?

Solar powered applications aside, your plug-ins may be a significant fire and electrical shock hazard.

Starting with lighting strings, have you used the right type in the right place? Such decorative lighting is designed for either indoor or outdoor applications. Outdoor type can be used either way, but those for indoor use should not be used outside where moisture becomes an important safety issue.

Indoor decorations usually have a basic, flat two-prong plug. Those for outside use may have a round cord and may have a three-prong or grounded plug.

Quality decoration will have a certification such as UL, ETL or NEMA label indicating that the product meets industry safety and fire standards.

Decoration power cords and extensions run under rugs or carpet may reduce tripping hazard, but invite crushing of the wire by foot traffic or temporary furniture relocation.

Moisture and electricity don’t mix. A defect in decorative wiring could energize adjoining wet surfaces such a deck and porch floors. Indoor cords are easily nicked when passing over metal gutters and roof flashing, causing a short circuit and potential fire.

Electric lighting on Christmas trees, real and artificial should be switched off when unattended and at night during sleeping time.

The addition of decorative electrical items plugged into existing outlets serving normal lighting, appliances, space heaters and the like may create circuit overload. This is particularly true when used with “outlet multiplying” devices.

Be sure to enjoy your Christmas holiday free of electrical shock or fire misfortune.

Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, safe New Year.

Fred Freiberger of Lake Wylie is an adjunct college professor who serves as an international consulting management engineer.

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