Staying safe this festive season

“'Tis the season to be jolly”, and there are simple ways to minimise the Yuletide electrical risks.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so the song goes. But it’s also one of the most dangerous. We can’t think of another time of year when our homes are quite so full of flammable material (giftwrap, paper chains, tinsel, etc.) at the same time as plentiful sources of ignition (candles, open fires, potentially hazardous electrics). Factor in house guests (more people means more potential accidents), and it can feel as if you’re living in a tinderbox.


Our workplaces are not immune, either. That Christmas tree in reception might look pretty – but is it safe? Those twinkly fairy lights haphazardly draped around everyone’s work stations add a warm, Santa’s-grotto style glow – but while setting the grotto on fire might provide (intense) temporary warmth, Father Christmas and his Elves wouldn’t be too pleased, and your colleagues are likely to be similarly disenchanted.


That all sounds terribly gloomy, doesn’t it? But as another song goes, “’tis the season to be jolly”, and there are simple ways to minimise the Yuletide electrical risks.



Christmas trees

However you decorate your home or office, a Christmas tree is likely to be the focal point. In a work environment the tree will probably be artificial. Many artificial trees are fire resistant – if you buy a new one, look for a statement on the packaging specifying this.


What if you’re reusing a tree from previous years? If it comes with lights already fitted make sure it has been portable appliance tested (PAT), and that the PAT test is up-to-date. The same goes for the lights, if you’re stringing them about the tree (and elsewhere). To reduce the risk of faults and fire, make sure everything is switched off overnight and at weekends if your workplace is unoccupied.


At home, the same rules apply. Check that your artificial tree is fire resistant, and check that your lights are in good condition. A fresh tree, newly cut and well-watered, is less of a fire hazard than an (older) artificial tree – but it will become more of a fire risk if it’s allowed to dry out. Put the trunk of the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand, well away from any open fires or candles, and keep the reservoir topped up while the tree is indoors.


In all cases, the golden rule – whether you’re going out, going to bed, shutting up shop for the night or locking up the office for the weekend – is SWITCH EVERYTHING OFF!




After a year stashed away in the loft (or the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet), Christmas lights can easily become unsafe. Here are our dos and don’ts.



  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Check your lights are not damaged or broken, and inspect them for loose wires
  • If you replace any bulbs, make sure that they are the same as those originally supplied with the lights
  • Ensure all outdoor lights are connected through a 30mA residual current device (RCD)-protected socket
  • Replace blown bulbs immediately to prevent overheating in the remaining bulbs and cable
  • Ensure plugs and transformers are plugged in indoors, even for outdoor lighting
  • Keep lights away from flammable decorations or anything else that could easily catch fire.




  • Use lights outdoors unless they are explicitly labelled as suitable for outdoor use
  • Connect different sets of lights together
  • Connect lights to the supply while still in the packaging
  • Remove or insert bulbs while the chain is plugged into the mains
  • Overload sockets, so try to avoid using extension leads or adaptors.



Christmas traditions


Many sets of fairy lights have been ‘in the family’ for generations. They’re unreliable and unsafe, so why do we hang on to them? The comfort of the familiar, perhaps? Because it is traditional?


Not all traditions should be allowed to stand the test of time. Keeping Christmas lights well past their safe operating life is one we’d like to see outlawed!



LED options

At Excel Electrical we recommend LED lights over traditional filament Christmas lighting.

  • They operate at extra-low voltage, significantly reducing the risk of electric shock
  • They use much less power, generating little heat and so reducing the risk of fire
  • They are estimated to use at least 80% less electricity than filament bulbs, so they are less expensive to run
  • They typically last up to 60 times longer
  • They are more durable – no fragile bulbs to break
  • Their lower power use is more environmentally friendly



Other electrics

As well as the fairy lights, it’s a fair bet that everything is going to take a hammering over Christmas and New Year: the oven, the kettle, the toaster, the shower, the vacuum cleaner, the immersion heater … and more. If you have any concerns about your home’s electrics and appliances, talk to us. We’ll be happy to provide reassurance where we can, and advice where we think it is necessary. There’s still time for our experienced engineers to fit in a home visit if needed.



Ask the experts


To talk to us, or make an appointment, call 01508 488007 or email

Excel Electrical. The power is in your hands.

Merry Christmas!







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