10 Christmas Light Safety Tips for Hanging Lights on Your Roof
With the holiday season in full swing, you might be getting ready to hang colorful outdoor lights around your house. But few homeowners know that hanging lights can be a dangerous endeavor for yourself, your roof and your energy bills.
Each year, more than 15,000 homeowners injure themselves as they decorate their homes for the holidays.1 With 34% of these injuries due to falling off a roof, it’s important to be safe when hanging your lights.
And falling isn’t the only danger that plagues holiday cheer: Old and broken Christmas lights cause nearly 40% of all Christmas tree fires.2 So, if you can, we recommend investing in new, energy-efficient LED lights that are safe for your home.
In this guide, we’ll give our best tips for safely and efficiently decorating your home for the holiday season.
How to Protect Your Roof as You Install Christmas Lights
Proper installation is key to hanging holiday lights without damaging your home. Many homeowners hang lights on their gutters, roof eaves and even near the first row of shingles. But in actuality, your roof type may dictate the best place to hang your lights. Before you get started with your holiday decorations, make sure your roof is ready for the weight of lights by inspecting these key areas:
- Look for any missing shingles
- Inspect your gutters
- Make sure gutters are securely fastened to your roof
- Check roof eaves and flashing to ensure that these are working properly
Now, let’s learn how to hang lights without doing damage to your roof and home.
Don’t Puncture Your Roof
Many homeowners use a staple gun to easily attach lights to their homes, but these tiny punctures damage your shingles, gutters and siding. There will be holes in your home regardless of how carefully you remove them, but you will do even more damage if you rip your lights down at the end of the season.
You can use a staple gun to attach lights to the eaves or perimeter of your roof, but this will still create holes that can’t be remedied. The safer option for hanging holiday lights is to use plastic light clips. These clips fasten to your home and do not cause any damage when attached correctly.
If you do puncture your roof, then you may need to contact a local installer to estimate the price of roof replacement or repair.
Don’t Pierce Your Shingles
The main job of your roof’s shingles is to keep water out of your home, so when they get punctured, this can invite water to places it shouldn’t be. In turn, this leads to further damage that can cost you thousands of dollars.
Any time you screw or nail into your roof, you create holes that could potentially let water in. You want to avoid making holes in your roof at all costs — especially if you have asphalt shingles — but using light clips can help you hang decorations on your roof safely.
Use Mounting Methods That Make Sense for Your Roof
Regardless of whether you’re hanging icicle lights, mini lights or any other type of extravagant incandescent holiday light, you’ll want to choose the right clip for your roof or gutter. Certain types of roof clips are designed with different parts of your roof in mind, so only use a mounting method that makes sense for your home:
- All-in-one clips are best for hanging lights on shingles and gutters
- Eave clips are best for hanging lights around the perimeter of your roof
- Clay tile roofs require plastic clay tile roof clips
- Parrot clips are recommended for flat roofs
- Simple clips can be attached to gutters
- Line clips are best for icicle lights or rope lights and attach to gutters
- Bulb clips are best for accurately hanging holiday lights in the same direction
- Roof peak clips are used by professional Christmas light installers and hold onto the edge of your shingle
Use Clips When Hanging Christmas Lights
It may seem like a good idea to pound nails into your roof, gutters and eaves to hang Christmas lights, but this will inevitably damage your home and create small holes that you will not be able to fix without redoing your entire exterior. Instead, use clips to safely hang lights from your roof.
Light clips are designed to hang on your railings, various types of gutters, roof eaves and even under shingles. Crafted with outdoor use in mind, light clips also make it easy to put holiday lights up because all you need to do is snap them to the roof of your home or any other place you choose to hang lights — no hammering or stapling required.
Try Not to Walk on Your Roof
If you can use a ladder to decorate your roof for the holidays, then you should never have to walk on your roof to hang Christmas lights. Especially in areas that experience heavy snow and ice, walking on your roof can be dangerous.
If you’ve tried to hang holiday lights and your ladder just won’t cut it, then you need to take several precautions before walking on your roofline. For both your safety and the protection of your roof shingles, make sure to do the following:
- Hang lights during sunny conditions so that you can see where you step
- If you live in a warm location and get a lot of sun, walk on asphalt shingles with thick-soled shoes to avoid burns
- Take your time walking so that you don’t slip and fall
- Take no more than three short steps onto your roof
- Avoid walking on gutters so that you don’t damage them
- Wear shoes with soft soles — such as sneakers — to avoid damaging your shingles
- If you have a tile roof, walk on two peaks instead of the valleys between the roof tiles
Use LED Lights
You should use LED lights for several reasons. First, LED bulbs are much more energy efficient than other types of holiday lights. This means they will help keep your energy bill lower over the holidays.
The average American uses 150 extra hours of electricity over the course of the holiday season, and depending on how many lights you use, this could add an extra $300 to $1,600 to your electricity bill.3 If you would rather save the majority of this money for holiday shopping, think about making the switch to LEDs.
LEDs are more than just better for energy conservation; these lights are also a significantly safer option. Nearly all holiday tree fires are caused by faulty lights that overheat, and LED lights are the safest option. Instead of getting hot and overheating, LEDs remain cool to the touch.
Check Each Strand of Lights for Damage
Before you spend the day hanging lights, you have to check each light for signs of damage. Because broken rope lights are a leading cause of fires during the holiday season, it’s critical that you check each light and strand for these common issues:
- Frayed wires
- Broken light bulbs
- Missing bulbs
- Exposed wires
Once you have looked your lights over for these common problems, you can plug your lights in and make sure each strand lights up. If you have sections that aren’t working, you can try to replace the bulbs to see if one light is the culprit. However, if your wires are exposed or frayed, it’s best to get new lights, because attempting to replace these can be dangerous.
Consider Your Control Methods for Energy Savings
If you have to manually turn your lights on and off each day during the holiday season, then you’re bound to forget to turn your lights on, go to bed without turning your lights off, have a dark house if you’re traveling and, above all, use more electricity than your neighbors who have switched to smarter control methods.
Instead of controlling your lights manually, consider investing in a plug-in timer that automatically turns your lights on and off at the time of day of your choosing. These simple devices connect directly to your outdoor extension cords, so they’re super easy to use — not to mention that these timers save you money on your energy bills.
To take programmable lights another step further, you can get Wi-Fi-enabled power strips that connect to your smartphone. You can set these on a timer, but you can also control your lights directly from your phone and use sensors to turn your lights on once the sky reaches a certain level of darkness.
How to Safely Take Your Lights Down After the Holiday Season
Once the season is over and you sadly have to take down your holiday decorations until the next year, make sure to take your time packaging your lights away. Not only does proper storage increase your lights’ lifespans, but careful storage can also save you from having to replace broken lights, prevent electrical shocks and help eliminate the possibility of starting a house fire due to faulty strands.
Don’t Rip Lights Down
It may seem simpler to rip your string lights down instead of taking the time to remove your light clips, but this is not advised. If you don’t carefully remove your string lights, you can damage both your lights and your roof. As you take down your lights, carefully remove the light strings from each clip and then go back to take the clips off your gutters or roof eaves.
Store Lights Properly for Next Season
By taking care of your outdoor holiday lights, you can avoid having to toss yours out year after year. This not only prevents waste, but also saves you from having to spend more money on seasonal decorations. Once you have safely taken your lights down for the year, make sure to do the following so that your roof clips and string lights are ready to bedazzle your home once again the following year:
- Wrap the strands around a clothes hanger, paper towel or wrapping tube, or sturdy piece of cardboard to avoid tangles
- Store shingle clips and gutter clips in a box and cushion them with discarded gift-wrapping materials like bubble wrap or wrapping paper
- Use a holiday light storage reel to keep all of your clips and lights secure
Neat storage is the key to a less frustrating experience the next time you take out your holiday lights, so take the time to store your lights properly and you’ll thank yourself later.
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