It’s that time of year again – the Christmas lists are written, lunches are being planned and homes are starting to look suitably festive. But do Christmas lights pose a fire risk to your property? What are some of the safety considerations if you’re hanging lights around the house this year? And does adding sparkle to the inside and outside of your house have an impact on your home insurance?
To help you stay safe – and insured – this Christmas, we’ve rounded up some Christmas light safety tips and expert advice.
Electrical safety risks to consider
Whether you use LED, incandescent or solar Christmas lights, it’s suggested you consider the risks associated with any use of electricity.
“With modern furnishings, if a fire ignites in your home, it only takes minutes for a room to become unsurvivable, and not long after for the majority of the home to be engulfed in superheated smoke and/or flames,” says Superintendent Adam Dewberry of Fire and Rescue NSW.
“All kinds of Christmas lights, including LED lights, are an additional energy source that have the potential to ignite a fire.”
Fire and Rescue NSW has a dedicated Festive Season Fire Safety checklist that offers handy tips such as inspecting plugs and leads to ensure they are in good working order, and making sure you have a sufficient number of working smoke alarms throughout your home.1
Christmas lights – outdoors, indoors or both?
Before you begin, you might want to think about whether you’ll have Christmas lights indoors, outdoors or a mixture of both.
While it can be tempting to keep up with the Joneses and create the kind of Christmas light spectacular that’ll garner national acclaim, there are important things to consider if you decide to use outdoor lights.
“When using Christmas lights anywhere outside your home – including verandahs – make sure you only ever use external-use lights and fittings,” says Brisbane-based Master Electrician, Mike Scholz.
“Don’t hang your lights near swimming pools or overhead powerlines, and avoid running them through open windows or doorways where wiring could get damaged.”
When it comes to interior options, such as Christmas tree lights, there are other safety measures to take.
“We recommend hanging lights away from flammable items such as curtains and couches – and avoid having them in direct contact with tinsel for the same reason,” says Scholz.
“Avoid overloading powerboards, and if you have any concerns about the safety of last year’s Christmas lights – indoor or outdoor – get them checked out by a licensed electrician. We say, ‘If in doubt, throw them out’ – there’s no need to risk fire.”
Family safety tips
Once you’ve selected your festive decorations, it’s suggested that all family members are taught to treat them with care.
“Teach your youngest children to look at but not touch Christmas lights – particularly where they plug into the mains,” says Queensland Government’s Electrical Safety Office Executive Director, Donna Heelan.
The Queensland Government has more advice for safe Christmas light usage here.2
Where should I buy my Christmas lights?
Whichever kind of lighting you choose, authorities recommend you buy your lights from a reputable source.
Energy Safe Victoria suggests buying from nationally registered sellers who understand the electrical equipment safety requirements for selling Christmas lights, and also looking for the regulatory compliance mark (RCM) logo that shows compliance with Australian Standards.3
They also suggest getting second hand lights checked by a licensed electrician before use, as older lights may not meet current safety standards.3
In terms of lights to avoid, you can check older lights have not been the subject of a product recall by visiting Product Safety Australia’s Recalls page.4
Do Christmas lights affect my insurance?
Perhaps you’re wondering if your home insurance premium may be affected by your use of Christmas lights. Bryce Lowry, Youi Product Specialist, explains that a Youi Home & Contents policy includes cover for accidental fire.5
“This includes fire caused directly by mechanical, electrical or electronic (including computer software) breakdown or failure, even when you get into the festive spirit by installing Christmas lights in and around your home,” Lowry explains.
Lowry notes that there is no need to contact Youi if you are just installing lights to spread some Christmas cheer, but if you’re ever in doubt, Youi’s team of specialists are available to help on 13 YOUI (9684).
1 Source: Fire and Rescue NSW – Festive Season Fire Safety checklist
2 Source: Qld Government, Electrical Safety Office – Christmas lights
3 Source: Vic Government, Energy Safe Victoria – Christmas light safety
4 Source: Product Safety Australia – Recalls
5 Exclusions and limits may apply. See our Home PDS for full details.