While most neighborhoods still have jack-o-lanterns on their porches, Luke and Whitney Bowerman haul strings of lights and Christmas decorations out from their garage. They lay out tens of thousands of lights and other holiday decorations, often surprising themselves with things they forgot they had. The layout is an important step in planning their unique annual creation, Oly Lightstravaganza, a light display put up on their home in nearby Olympia for the enjoyment of the community.
If you want to put up Christmas Lights on your own home, Dwayne Boggs from Boggs Inspection Services and the Bowermans have some advice for you to keep in mind before starting your holiday decorating.
Inspect All Decorations Carefully
Start by inspecting all lights and decorations before you begin placing and hanging them. Even newly purchased decorations should be inspected. Replace bulbs and fuses as needed. And look for any areas where wire insulation may have worn away exposing it to the elements. Decorations or string lights with worn or frayed wires should be recycled or properly disposed of. During the holidays, some stores offer holiday light recycling, so keep an eye out for string light recycling collection boxes, or check out the Pierce County Public Works website and the Earth911 online database for recycling options.
“Lights, decorations and extension cords should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)” says Dwayne. If circuits are not GFCI-protected, portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased in hardware stores and are easy to use. Most are simply plug in and use, but be sure to refer to the package insert for usage instructions.
Be careful to not overload circuits. With most decorations using LED lights now, it is difficult to overload a circuit, but care should still be taken. A good rule of thumb is to not attach more than three strings of lights to each other and to use several outlets to space out your usage.
Outdoor Decorations and Cords for Outdoor Use
Many lights and decorations these days are sealed for indoor/outdoor use, but always double check to be sure. Moisture can get into indoor decorations presenting a shock or fire hazard. Another important thing to remember is to use only outdoor extension cords outdoors. Ensure that cords are kept off walkways so they don’t become a tripping hazard, and check that cords do not sit in low spots where water collects or under downspouts where there may be a large amount of water runoff.
Ladder safety is especially important during the cold months. Even if temperatures are above freezing, rain or early morning moisture in the air can make ladder steps, pathways and lawns slippery. Use caution and always use the correct size ladder for the job. Ladder work is best done as a team, with one member of the team holding the ladder steady. “Never reach while on your ladder,” says Luke, “even if it seems like a lot of work to move the ladder a few inches over, leaning is not worth the risk.” Do not use the top rung of the ladder as a step, unless it was specifically designed for that purpose. Make sure that step stools and ladders are placed on sturdy surfaces. Never attempt to move or shift a ladder with someone on it.
Do not use stapes or nails to attach lights to your home’s exterior. “These items can wear away the protective wire insulation resulting in an electrical shock or fire hazard,” says Dwayne. Light clips are a useful, inexpensive solution perfectly designed for the task. Zip ties can also be used to attach light strings to handrails or vegetation. Use care to prevent cords from becoming crimped or pinched in doorways or by windows.
The Bowermans just began their eighth season on November 25. Oly Lightstravaganza can be found at 1515 10th Avenue SE in Olympia from 4:45 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. through New Year’s Day. They encourage you to come visit them and see their spectacular walkup display of over 75,000 lights. The couple maintains a donation box for the Thurston County Food Bank, which accepts non-perishable food donations, as well as cash donations. Weeknights are generally not as busy as weekends, and the display gets more popular as Christmas approaches. Please be considerate to the neighbors when parking and be prepared to walk a bit if it’s a busy night.
Whether you plan to have 75,000 thousand lights like Oly Lightstravaganza or just a few hindered, Boggs Inspection Services encourages you to keep safety in mind for a joyful holiday season.