outdoor lights installed safely

How to Safely Use Outdoor Lights

Outdoor lights are great! You can use them for safety, for decoration, or just for fun. However, sometimes electrical safety isn’t always considered when hanging up outside lights because they’re often seen as being temporary… but that can make them more dangerous! Here are a few tips for keeping your outdoor lights safe. (A little heads up: the key is staying focused on products that are outdoor-rated!)

Install Outdoor-Rated Fixtures

This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure that you’re adding a new light fixture outside that is outdoor safe. For example, a light that’s under your roof  on your back patio will still get damp, cold, or hot, and needs to be able to handle the weather. Look for phrases like “indoor/outdoor,” “weatherproof,” “weather resistant,” and “suitable for wet locations” when purchasing a new light fixture for outside. (The same standard applies to light bulbs!)

Don’t Over-Light a Fixture

Most fixtures, indoor or outdoor, have a maximum wattage just as a lightbulb does. This number is not a suggestion, but a standard in place to keep from overheating the wiring in the fixture. And pay no attention to the “incandescent equivalent” – the actual wattage of the bulb is what matters.

Use Outdoor-Rated Extension Cords

Only use outdoor-rated extension cords outdoors! Manufacturers make outdoor extension cords to handle the weather, but don’t make indoor cords to the same standards. (The same goes for decorative lighting!)

Watch Out for Flammable Materials

Be careful to keep lighting materials that generate heat, like many light bulbs, away from other materials that can ignite and burn easily.

Install Weather-Resistant Receptacles

You should always plug temporary outdoor loads into outdoor receptacles instead of running a cord out through your door or window. Make sure the receptacles are weather-resistant too. Even though they’ll have special outdoor covers over them, the receptacles themselves need to be able to take dampness, freezing, and heat without being damaged. (Don’t forget that you need to have GFCI outlets as well, not just protective covers!)