Christmas tree lights

Christmas tree lights

Consumers need to make sure they are buying approved Christmas lights and, to prevent fires or shocks, these lights must be used safely.

Lights with plugs that are not designed for use in New Zealand should be avoided. Here are some safety tips from Energy Safety for Christmas lights.

Don't buy or use Christmas lights (or other electronic goods) that:

  • do not have the normal plug you would use at home
  • are supplied with a travel adaptor to fit the socket outlet
  • have a cord that extends up (rather than down) from the plug or a plug with no covering insulation extending halfway up the two plug pins
  • have been specifically prohibited in New Zealand. 

When using lights

If you have an older light set which has bulbs that operate at 230V (mains voltage), connect your lights to a Residual Current Device (RCD). The RCD will turn the power off if things go wrong, reducing the risk of a fatal electric shock. If you don't own an RCD already, you can buy one from any hardware or electronic store.

Check all lights – both old and new – for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. If you are unsure about their safety, have them checked by a licensed electrical worker.

Replace bulbs with ones of the same voltage and wattage. The wrong bulbs could cause overheating and start a fire. Always switch off and unplug light strings before replacing bulbs.

Turn off all Christmas lights when you go to bed or leave the house. If the lights develop a fault, they could start a fire.

A tingling sensation is usually a warning of danger. If you get a tingle from your lights or something touching them – Christmas decorations on the tree (inside), or the house down pipe (outside) – turn the lights off immediately and get them checked by a licensed electrical worker. 

Using Christmas lights outside

If you are using Christmas lights outside follow the above advice and also:

  • check labels to make sure that they are suitable for outside use, and read all instructions carefully before installing your lights
  • clean the outside of your house before installing the lights. Spider webs, leaves, and any other debris are a potential fire hazard
  • fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use specially insulated clips to hold them in place and mount them out of reach.

Some Christmas lights are not suitable for repeated use and should be safely disposed of when no longer required.

Published in consumer and occupational safety.