Not all holiday lights are safe to decorate a real Christmas tree. Even safe lights can become unsafe if you overload the plugs with too many extensions, or overload the electrical outlet with too much voltage. Here are safety tips for decorating a real Christmas tree with holiday lights without risk of fire or electrical troubles right in the middle of your holiday festivities.
Cool Burning Holiday Lights
Miniature white holiday lights do not turn hot when lit, making them ideal for decorating the inside of a real Christmas tree. Using the white lights as the inner illumination will leave a fresh Christmas tree looking bright. It will also leave sufficient space for additional lights on the outer branches of the tree. To safely decorate a real Christmas tree with extra-large holiday lights be sure to buy cool burning light strings. Most will state on the box that they are safe for decorating a fresh Christmas tree. Don’t assume that outdoor Christmas lights are necessarily safe for decorating a real tree. Some are designed to decorate your eaves only.
Stacking Holiday Lights
Holiday lights can be strung together by plugging them to each other. To safely decorate a real Christmas tree with holiday lights look for the kind of plugs that can be stacked when one plugs into another in a line. The other kind of Christmas lights that come with plugs that connect end to end limit you to connecting only two strings of holiday lights. You might then be tempted to use several extension cords to provide electricity to all your Christmas lights, and this can present an electrical hazard (more on this below).
Safety Count for Holiday Lights
Too much of a good thing can become a fire hazard when safely decorating a real Christmas tree with holiday lights. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations when deciding on how many Christmas lights to string together. Typically 300 light bulbs are the safe maximum, so if you are decorating your fresh Christmas tree with 50-light strands don’t use more than 6 plugged in a stack. If you are decorating your fresh Christmas tree with 100-light strands cut the maximum amount to 3 plugged in a stack. There is, however, a trick to tripling the safe amount of lights when decorating a fresh Christmas tree (more on this below).
Exposed Outlet Covers
Each holiday light strand will come with a plug at one end and a socket at the other. This allows you to connect Christmas lights into longer strands. Always cover any socket that remains unused. Some holiday lights come with a rotating plastic cover built into the socket (outdoor ones, typically). In the absence of this safety cover, use plastic childproof electrical outlet covers found at home improvement stores.
Extension Cord Arrangement
To safely decorate a real Christmas tree with holiday lights limit your use of extension cords to 2 per tree and its corresponding electrical outlet. Be sure to buy extension cords with a high enough voltage. At your home improvement store, you’ll see that electrical cords are arranged not only by length but by voltage (more on this below).
Holiday Lights Testing
It might sound obvious but to safely decorate a real tree with Christmas lights take a precautionary step before even starting. Plug each light string into the electricity to make sure it works well. If there are any tears in the wire or faulty light bulbs, you’ll be able to see that the Christmas light string is damaged.
Holiday Lights Arrangement
Wrapping holiday lights around your real Christmas tree is cumbersome and unnecessarily difficult. It’s far safer and easier to decorate a fresh Christmas tree with holiday lights by working from the bottom upwards, covering 1/3 of the tree at a time, so that in the end you will be decorating your real Christmas tree in three sections. In this way you can actually triple the amount of lights you can put on your tree, as you’ll see below when I talk about the installation process. Even better, this technique of dividing the tree into 3 sections for decorating it safely makes it easy to repair any bad strings. Instead of repair a whole tree, you’ll be repair 1/3.
Holiday Lights Installation
If you start installing your holiday lights at the top of your fresh Christmas tree you will likely need an extension cord to get that high up. For this reason, I like to start at the bottom and work my way up. Some people like to start at the top and begin with the end of the string, but I don’t like having a long string dangling along the tree as I work. Remember that you’ll be decorating only one side of the tree (1/3) from the bottom upwards. Weave the cord between the branches crisscrossing in an upward slant. To safely decorate a real Christmas tree with holiday lights make sure the cord does not cross over itself.
Once you reach the end of the string, use the plug to connect the next string. Make sure the Christmas lights are the same watt for both strings before you proceed. Keep weaving the cord through the branches of the fresh Christmas tree until you finish decorating that portion. Do not exceed more than 300 light bulbs connected into one string. Now, repeat this step to safely decorate your real Christmas tree with holiday lights all around.
Safety Tips Conclusion
When you finish safely decorating your real Christmas tree with holiday lights you will have 3 long strings composed of no more than 300 lights each, for a total of 900 lights on the entire tree. Use no more than 2 extension cords to connect the lights to your electrical outlet and make sure that the electrical cords can support the watt required for your total amount of holiday lights.
For more of my holiday articles, here are 10 Glittering Christmas-Table-Decorations You Can Make Yourself.
Better Homes & Gardens: Christmas Tree Lighting Tips