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Use safe Christmas lights

It's that time of the year when Christmas lights make an appearance across Queensland adding fun and excitement to festivities.

Important safety tips

Before you start decorating, there are some important safety tips to be aware of, to ensure your Christmas doesn't end in disaster.

  • Use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outdoors.
  • Buy Australian-compliant Christmas lights (be wary of purchasing non-compliant lights over the internet from overseas).
  • Check old Christmas lights before re-using them.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Don't alter or modify lights.
  • Ensure all lights, extension leads and power boards are suitable for the intended use (e.g external or internal).
  • Test your safety switch and smoke detector to make sure they are working.
  • Keep Christmas lights out of reach of children.
  • Always turn off decorative lighting before going to bed or leaving your house.

Indoor

Lights suitable for indoor use should only be used indoors. This will be indicated on the packaging or on the light itself (usually on a tag near the plug).

It's not safe to use indoor lights outdoors as they don't have the additional weatherproof ratings.

  • Test your safety switch and smoke detector before setting up your lights.
  • Keep lights and other electrical appliances away from children.
  • Turn your lights off before going to bed or leaving your house.
  • If you have a living Christmas tree, switch off and unplug lights when watering the tree.

Outdoor

Only use outdoor lights outdoors. Indoor lights are not safe to use outside (even on verandas). Outdoor lights meet additional safety standards.

Outdoor Christmas lights will have an IP rating (e.g. IPX3, IP23, IP44), this number shows how weatherproof the light is – the higher the numbers, the better the weatherproof rating. Outdoor equipment must have at rating of least IP23.

Some Christmas lights suitable for outdoors require the transformer (plug) to be located indoors and away from any effects of weather. Some may only be suitable for temporary use outdoors. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Consider using solar powered lights, LED or extra-low-voltage lights (12V or 24V), as these are the safest options to prevent electric shock and prevent fires from over-heating.

The tips below can help keep your outdoor Christmas light display safe.

  • Secure outdoor lights to avoid damage in wind or storms.
  • Always turn off outdoor decorative lighting in rainy or stormy weather.
  • Flood lights, halogen lights and other high powered lights can become very hot. Keep them away from anything that might catch fire.
  • Avoid passing electrical leads through doorways and windows where leads might be damaged.
  • Don't run electrical leads over walkways or driveways where they might be damaged.
  • All outdoor connections must be weatherproof.
  • Don't put Christmas lighting around or above swimming pools or have leads lying in water or wet areas.
  • Avoid wrapping lights around sharp metal objects which may damage the wires.
  • Be aware that using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits.

Check your old Christmas lights

Before using last year's Christmas lights, unravel them and look at the plug, leads and lamp holders to check there are no exposed wires or obvious damage. If you have any concerns about the safety of the Christmas lights get them checked out by a licensed electrical contractor.

  • Follow manufacturer's instructions and safety warnings.
  • Do not alter or modify any lighting equipment.
  • Test Christmas lights before installing them.
  • Make sure electrical leads are safe - never use a damaged lead.
  • Unwind all extension leads to avoid overheating.
  • Ensure all lights, extension leads and powerboards are suitable for what you are using them for.
  • Make sure the power is off when putting up your Christmas lights or changing light bulbs.
  • Check your old lights haven't been part of a product recall.

Check your Christmas lights have insulated pins. Electrical appliances, including Christmas lights sold after 2006 must have insulated pins. If it does not have insulated pins then the Christmas lights do not meet the latest safety requirements.

Buying Christmas lights

As with all electrical equipment and appliances, Christmas lights must meet safety standards and are required to have an Australian certificate of approval before they can be sold in Queensland.

Buy your lights from a reputable dealer who will know the electrical equipment safety requirements for selling Christmas lights in Queensland.

Look for an approval number (e.g. Q12345; V12345; N12345; NSW12345) or the regulatory compliance mark logo. These indicate compliance with Australian Standards. These marks must be on the Christmas lights and are normally found on the packaging, plastic tag near the plug, or on the transformer body if it is an extra low voltage type.

Beware of buying Christmas lights over the internet from overseas

Beware of buying Christmas lights online particularly from overseas. Other countries have different safety standards and the products sold in these countries may be unsafe for use in Australia.

Electrical equipment sold in Australia must meet strict electrical safety standards.

Buying second hand

Second hand Christmas lights should be checked by a licensed electrician to make sure they are safe to use.

Safety requirements for Christmas lights have changed in recent years, some second hand lights may not meet the latest safety requirements.

Connecting safely

These tips can help you set up your Christmas decorations safely.

  • Install a safety switch and test it before setting up your lights. If you don't have a safety switch, use a portable safety switch.
  • Using multiple high-powered lamps may overload your electric circuits.
  • Use power boards fitted with over-load protection.
  • Avoid using double adaptors or piggy back plugs.
  • Use factory-made extension leads or those made by a licensed electrical contractor.
  • Check decorative lighting and all leads for damage. Never use a damaged lead.
  • Always unwind extension leads to avoid possible overheating.
  • Use extra-low voltage outside, such as LED or solar lights.
  • If you must, use outdoor electrical connections make sure all electrical connections are weatherproof. You can buy weatherproofing accessories to do the job.
  • Use decorative lights for the right purpose - outdoor lights for outdoor areas, indoor lights for indoor areas.
Last updated
04 April 2017

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