There is something special about riding in the car and seeing houses all lit up for the holidays. You may be breaking out your own strings of lights soon! But before you start making spirits — and your home — bright, let HomeFirst® wish you and your home a safe Christmas and winter season with this outdoor lighting guide. Before you plug in your lights, plug into these tips for fire and shock prevention.

Last Year’s Lights

When you are taking your outdoor lights and decorations out of storage, be sure to check the condition of the wires and bulbs. You can plug in each light strand to find any bulbs that need replacing. Inspect the connectors, insulation around the wire and any fraying that is present. Malfunctioning lights and damaged wires could not only ruin your festive vision but can also become overheated and spark or give off an electric jolt. Repair or replace lights that could be a hazard, and make sure any replacement bulbs properly match the lights you have.

The Right Equipment

You’ll want to use lights that are specifically for outdoor decoration. They are designed to be outside, and we recommend making sure they are weatherproof as well. You don’t want rain or snow to dampen your jolly display. The same goes for extension cords; any cords or outlets should be outdoor and weather ready. Check for lights rated for safety, and cords should be plugged into a GFIC — ground-fault circuit interrupter — outlet. This will help reduce the potential for fire or electricity hazards and injuries.

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Up on the Rooftop

When stringing the lights, read the instructions for the limits on how many strands can be linked together. The typical maximum is three strands at a time, so be careful you aren’t overloading the lights (or your outlets!). This is for the same reason you want to avoid using damaged lights: overloaded ones can get too hot, which could cause flames to ignite or the current to shock anyone who touches them. Consider LED lights as well; they give off less heat.

As you attach the lights to your roof, avoid using metal options such as staples. These can not only damage the insulation or wiring, making them potentially unsafe, but metal is a conductor for electricity. Inquire at your local hardware for metal-free clips or clamps to keep your lights secured. You’ll also want to use a ladder that is metal-free, like a wooden one. Climbing a ladder and walking on the roof are dangerous activities that should always be conducted with great care. Be sure to have a friend or relative with you to hold your ladder and call for help if needed. The safest option is to hire a professional to hang your lights and take them down.

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Other Things to Remember

When you are going to sleep or leaving your home, turn off the outdoor lights. Depending on the lights you choose and your outlets, some come with timers, so you can program your lights to turn on and off at the hours you want. Also, protect your outside lights and your family by keeping cords off wet ground and not leaving them in pathways where they risk becoming damaged or causing someone to trip. When the holidays wrap up, store your lights and decorations properly to save yourself from a tangled mess, so you can keep enjoying your outdoor lights year after year.

Ready to Decorate Inside Your Home? Put the Tree Up with These Tips in Mind.