A basic guide to Christmas Lights Do’s and Don’ts
By DJE electrician Luke Starr (yes that is my real surname)
I believe my brother may have Griswald Syndrome. Every year around October he begins talking about Christmas lights and positioning them around the house. Numerous plastic tubs with various LED lights are removed from storage and the process of safety checking begins.
What started out as a hobby three years ago has become a serious ‘affliction’. Last year saw him take out first place for Strathfield. The LED netting of the roof I feel was the winning stroke but this year he’s going bigger….more lights (by my calculations over 100,000 LED’s) and yes…. a snow machine.
So by association and being his electrician brother I’ve been the ‘hired’ help since his affliction began. If you’re feeling the need to start hanging lights here’s a little list of do’s and don’ts to help you.
Where to Get Christmas Lights
If you’re just starting out go and have a look at what’s on offer. You may have a few ideas of what you want to do or you may be completely in the dark! There are various Christmas lighting pop-up stores that appear around October with a massive selection of lights and fabricated structures. All the hardware suppliers have a good selection as well, although the pop-up stores tend to have a better selection and pricing.
Check out accessories such as weatherproof cable boxes, extention leads and cable clips. Talk to the staff they are generally very helpful and knowledgeable. The impulse to buy will be strong, you must use the force and walk away armed with your new found knowledge and a price list!
Christmas Light Installation
Once you are home, think about what you’d like to do. You may have a particular area of the house like an entertaining area you want to give the Christmas spirit to. With your new ideas and knowledge of the way you’d like to light an area, plan what type of lights and accessories you’ll need AND STICK TO IT! It’s easy to go over budget…. ask my brother! Once set up, a basic way to switch the lights on and off is to use a quality plug-in timer from an internal power point (most plug-in timers are not weather proof). They are simple and convenient to use and can stop your neighbours from complaining at 2am because their bedroom looks like a kaleidoscope.
Christmas Light Don’ts:
Don’t buy non-compliant Christmas lights
Don’t buy any lights that are non-compliant to Australian standards. Ask your supplier if you are unsure. They should have C-tick and or RCM mark which means they have been approved by the Australian electrical standard. Cheap lights can be dangerous as my brother found out after ordering LED nets from China one year. Electricity kills indiscriminately, don’t risk it.
Don’t repair old faulty Christmas lights
Following on from this do not attempt any repairs of old faulty Christmas lights. While they may be low voltage they have different voltage requirements, some run on AC some DC, and some have dual transformer arrangements. (It is possible to Frankenstein an LED lighting arrangement but this is an area for electrical professionals). If they are damaged, throw them out.
Don’t use makeshift weatherproofing devices
Don’t use makeshift weatherproofing devices if your light transformers are exposed to the weather. While LED lights are normally IP rated (a rating system for water and dirt resistance), the transformers are normally not and require weather protection if outside. The weatherproof boxes on offer are an affordable and safe way of securing these connections.
Don’t skimp on Christmas light extension leads
Don’t skimp on extension leads. Good quality extension leads are a necessity. Visually check the cable before plugging it in to use. Before energising, run your hand along the cable to check for nicks or breaks that may not be visible. Don’t leave cables where they can become a trip hazard or driven over. If you feel this is going to become a yearly event investing in external weatherproof power points may be a better option. David Jones – The Electrician are skilled at finding lower cost solutions for permanent external weather proof power points.
Finally, as in all cases with electrical installations, make sure you have working smoke alarms and a compliant switchboard with safety switches.
Lastly, have fun with your lighting arrangement, don’t underestimate the joy it can bring to those around you. People in my area start asking my brother around October if he’s going to ‘do the Christmas lights again’. Some of our elderly neighbours have said that is one of the few things they look forward to at Christmas.
From all of us at David Jones – The Electrician have a safe and merry Christmas and feel free to contact us with any queries about your Christmas lighting.