Let there be lights! Christmas lights, that is. And if the timing of when some homeowners started hanging them this year is any measure--as early as mid-October-- we’re really, really anxious for some holiday cheer. Most of you will opt for relatively understated displays. Others will try to outdo neighbors by creating winter wonderland scenes so dazzlingly bright that aliens (assuming they’re out there) can see them from galaxies away.
“When I pass a suburban house festooned with twinkly, colored fairy lights, I always scream ‘Bravo’ out of the window of my car,” Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barneys New York, has admitted. Whichever, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Never hang lights from your roof’s shingles. “Making even the tiniest of holes in them or any roof component — even with a stapler — will let moisture or leaks in, and potentially rot the roof,” says Jason Joplin, program manager of the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence. Instead, use clips that hang from the gutter or eaves.
- Metallic trees require special care. Gee, what could possibly go wrong by hanging electric lights on them? “The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights,” warns the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted.” Colored spotlights, above or beside them, are the way to go.
- Embrace the buddy system. Maybe they were all drinking spiked egg nog, but one oft-quoted study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 6,000 people wind up in emergency rooms annually just from holiday decorating-related falls. As most of the injured are men and most fall from ladders, let’s all say it together: “Asking someone to hold the ladder for you, whether you’re stringing lights on a roof or a tall tree, isn’t wussy.”
- Don’t Let ‘er Rip: Even worse than being that one house on the block that never gets around to taking down decorations till spring is this: disassembling by haphazardly pulling lights off your roof from the cord. “You risk damaging the gutter that way,” says Joplin, “and potentially the shingle if you didn’t clip it correctly to begin with.”
Especially if you are planning elaborate displays, you might want to consider hiring a pro. Oh, and if you’re truly into wowing others beyond your immediate street — no, probably not E.T.s — it’s best to stagger two sets of lights side by side to increase the density.