With Christmas less than a month away, experts are urging zealous decorators to take care when putting up holiday lights this season.

Hydro companies are reminding homeowners to review the Electrical Safety Authority’s guidelines to avoid electrocution or fires.

CTVNews.ca has rounded up a number of those tips, with help from professional light installer Paul Baluch, of the B.C.-based company Shack Shine.

Check your wires

Experts say you should never take for granted that your lights from last year will be in good enough condition to go up this year. Broken bulbs can be a fire hazard, as can frayed or exposed wires.

“You want to check the wire before you put it up,” Baluch told CTV Vancouver.

The ESA says you should also never run more than three strings of lights off a power cord, and never let connectors rest in puddles, on the ground or in gutters. They also advise against using staples or nails to secure wires in place, because it can damage the wire and create a fire hazard.

“Never remove the third prong on plugs,” the ESA adds. “This ‘grounding pin’ prevents shock in the event of electrical equipment failure.”

Indoor or outdoor

Authorities say it’s important to make sure lights are approved by the Canadian Safety Association, and that they are rated for the appropriate environment. Indoor lights should never be used outside, and outside lights should never be used indoors.

Baluch adds that anyone using laser lights should take care to point them at something, rather than allowing them to shine into the sky.

“Lasers aren’t safe for you to look into, especially when you have kids around,” he added.

Power lines

Avoiding power lines might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget they’re there when you see them outside your home every day. The ESA advises people to take a moment to specifically look for power lines before setting up a ladder or arranging lights, so as to avoid any potentially deadly issues.


When it comes to using a ladder, Baluch recommends adhering to the simple 4-1 rule: for every four feet you go up, add one foot of distance between the ladder and the wall.

“Never install lights on your own,” Baluch added. “You always want two people on site at all times when you’re installing lights.”

More tips can be found on the ESA website.