How to Safely Install Halloween Decorations
Halloween is a time to frighten guests at home or clients at work. But it’s important to make sure you do so in a fun, safe manner. Here are a few things to consider while setting up your Halloween decorations to avoid damage to your property and loved ones.
Use Outdoor Lights Outdoors
All light fixtures and bulbs are not the same. Lights are made to be used in certain areas.
Lights that were meant to be outside are often made to withstand cold weather, humidity, wind, and rain. Indoor lights are not. Typically, indoor lights don’t need extra durability. Any decoration you plan on using outside should clearly state this it is made “for outdoor use” or is “weatherproof.”
Use GCFI Outlets Outside
Your outdoor outlets need to be able to stand up to the elements as well. A GCFI (ground fault circuit interrupter) is a good idea for both indoor and outdoor outlets. It will automatically shut off power to the outlet if the circuit gets overloaded. This helps to prevent fires and wiring damage to whatever was plugged in.
Confirm that you have GCFI receptacles installed. If you don’t, have an electrician install them for you. It’s also helpful to make sure your outlets are covered. A shield from things like dust, rain, and hail helps your outlet last longer and function properly. An outlet box helps provide protection for your outlet. Many outlet boxes include holes for pad locks to seal the box.
Look for GCFI outlets that are labeled as being “weatherproof” and “tamper-proof” for use with your exterior Halloween décor. And even if you know you already have GCFI receptacles on the outside of your house, read our post about knowing when it’s time to replace an outlet. Another option would be to purchase a portable GFCI plug. Portable GFCIs work perfectly for temporary outdoor applications due to their portability and simple installations. They can also be used when needed as they don’t require permanent installations.
Keep Flammable Items Away from Outlets
It seems like a no-brainer, but fires happen because of this more often than you might think. People leave things that can ignite too close to outlets that could spark and a fire is started. Whether you have safe, modern outlets or not, it’s always a good idea to stay mindful of what goes near your outlets. Make sure that the following kinds of items are kept away from outlets (twelve inches is a good distance to start with):
► Dried corn husks
► Dried grass
► Cloth decorations (especially tattered items such as a witch’s robe or a zombie’s shirt)
► Dead or dried flowers
► Decorative tissue or crepe paper
Don’t Fasten with Metal
For multiple reasons, you may want to place electrical cords in areas besides the floor or ground. In this case, use fasteners such as electrical tape or plastic zip ties to secure your cords to wooden railings and door frames. When you use metal objects as fasteners, you run the risk of damaging the cords (the insulation that covers the wires) and exposing yourself and others to electrocution. Speaking of using metal, remember that you shouldn't use a metal ladder when hanging your lights and other electronic decorations. You risk electrocution when you do this.
Beware of Circuit Overloads
It’s easy to overlook the importance of making sure you don’t plug in more devices than your outlets can handle. Especially when you use things like power strips that give you more outlets than your receptacle was installed with. But putting too much strain on your circuits can become a fire hazard.
One of the most common, and dangerous, ways you can overload is by using power strips for “daisy-chaining.” Daisy-chaining is when you string multiple power strips together in order to either gain access to a power source that is far away from the specific item you’re trying to plug up. Some people also daisy chain power strips in order to get more access points from a single outlet.
For an outlet that was meant to have a single device plugged into it, having multiples can be an issue, depending upon how much power each of the items needs. For example, if you are plugging up a cell phone, lamp, and alarm clock, it’s unlikely that you’re overtaxing your outlet, unless it’s old or damaged. But if you’re plugging in a life-sized, moving zombie that lights up, a 100-foot string of jack-o-lantern LEDs, and a space heater, you are risking a fire hazard even if you don’t trip a breaker. Remember that just because you have room to plug in more appliances or devices doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do so.