How to Safety Use and Protect Outdoor String Lights

by Vlen Feng
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How to Safety Use and Protect Outdoor String Lights

Using outdoor light strings has become one of the most popular ways to illuminate outdoor spaces. You might have patio lights strung across your backyard or use dozens of Christmas light strings to build incredible displays during the holiday season. Whenever using electricity outdoors, it’s extremely important to be safe. In this article, we’ll discuss what strings and components are safe for outdoor use, when to cut light strings, and how to keep string lights connections safe. 

Tips 1#: Plug your cords into a GFCI outlet 

Your GFCI outlet will help protect against a variety of potential electrical hazards. If your extension cord has any signs of wear and tear, do not use it, even if you are plugged into a GFCI outlet.

 GFCI outlet

Tips 2#: Don’t Use Old or Worn Strings

When was the last time you bought new light strings for your Christmas displays? If it’s been a while or your lights get stored in a hot attic for 10 or so months out of the year, chances are you might need some new ones. When you first get your lights out you should use testers to check for damaged sockets, bad bulbs, or blown fuses and make any necessary repairs. Strings with worn or brittle wires should be immediate thrown away as these lights can potentially pose a fire hazard. 


Tips 3#: Limit the length of your light strands

The circuits in your home may handle 15 to 20 amps, but remember that you might have more things plugged in than just your holiday lights. Furthermore, the thin wire on a light set isn’t usually designed to handle more than 1.8 amps of current (216 watts). That’s about five 40-watt strings as long as they are all the same bulb type and wattage. Many holiday light manufacturers advise connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together (LED sets can be longer). Be cautious and keep track of the number of lights, as overloading a string has been known to cause deadly fires.



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Tips 4#: Use Outdoor Rated Bulbs

While the majority of C7 and C9 bulbs are safe for outdoor use, the same cannot be said for other types of bulbs used in patio light strings. Incandescent bulbs are safe for outdoor use as long as they are protected from direct contact with water. If used in an open area, the lights should be taken down immediately after an event. Where and when LED bulbs can be used depends on the safety rating. Damp location rated bulbs can be used where moisture is present, but should not come in direct contact with water. LED bulbs with this rating should not be used for permanently installed light strings. Wet location rated bulbs can come in direct contact with water and can be safely used in open areas.  

string lights

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Tips 5#:  Avoid Leaving Open Sockets

When bulbs are screwed into the sockets of outdoor light strings, it is harder for moisture and dust to enter the socket. Exposed sockets have nothing to prevent water and dirt from entering and causing a short. For this reason it is recommended that you avoid leaving sockets empty on outdoor light strings. Failed bulbs should be left in place until you have replacements on hand. The strings will still work even though a few bulbs no longer light.  



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by Vlen Feng


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