Getting together with friends and family on the back patio is a fun summertime activity. How you light that scene when the sun goes down can make it even more special … and potentially more dangerous.
Outdoor sconces, string lights, paper lanterns and lamps can be great for adding ambiance and extra lighting to your yard. However, if they aren’t installed and maintained correctly, they can be serious electrical hazards.
Vatterott College - Joplin Electrical Program Director Trevor Brattin offers the following outdoor lighting tips to help keep your yard well-lit and danger-free.
1. Purchase lights and extension cords that are only UL-listed. Only use UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed lights and extension cords. UL is a nationally recognized, independent product safety certification organization. UL means that the lights and extension cords you’re using have been tested and approved before being sold or installed.
2. Use lights, extension cords and light bulbs that are only rated for outdoor use. A green UL Mark on the tag or near the plug means that the lights are safe for indoor use only, and the red UL Mark indicates the lights are safe for both indoor and outdoor use. Outdoor lights are waterproof and prevent electrical shock and fire hazards. Also use only heavy duty extension cords and light bulbs that are listed for outdoor use.
3. Always use GFCIs. For your outdoor lighting, use only GFCI enabled, weather-resistant outlets. Ground-fault interrupters are designed to disconnect a circuit the instant that a short-circuit is found. If you don't have a GFCI outlet, a qualified electrician can permanently install one outdoor or you can buy a portable outdoor unit.
4. Inspect lights for damage. If your outdoor lighting supplies have been in storage all winter, inspect them before plugging them in. Look carefully at all lights and extension cords for signs of damage to wire insulation, plugs and bulbs. If the damage can be easily repaired, such as replacing a broken bulb, do not use the item until the repair has been made. If cords and plugs are damaged, discard and replace the decoration.
5. Be careful where you place lighting. Positioning exterior lights near swimming pools, fountains and standing water can be hazardous. Placing lights directly on your lawn can also cause problems as mowing around them will be difficult. Instead, place lighting in flower beds. If low-voltage wiring is buried, do not cover them with wood chips or dried grass as the wire can resurface and cause a fire.
6. Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when hanging lights outdoors. Metal ladders conduct electricity and can result in a severe electric shock. When hanging string lights or paper lanterns, do not use staples, nails or tacks to hang electrical cords as they can pierce the protective insulation.
7. Don’t overload outlets. No more than three strands of lights should be plugged into each electrical cord or outlet.
8. Check lights often. Every so often, check light wires to make sure they are not warm to the touch. Overheated wires can spark a fire.
9. Always unplug lights before making any repairs. If you need to replace a bulb in a string of lights, make sure the wattage rating of the replacement bulb matches that of the light strand. Using a bulb with too much wattage can cause the light string to overheat, creating a fire risk.
10. Turn off lights when not being monitored. Always turn off all outdoor lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
If you’re unsure about how to install outside lights, call a licensed electrician. They can also inspect your outside lighting to pinpoint any problems and aid in fixing them.
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas