Yes it’s that time again, Christmas – time to dig out your lights and decorations, spend hours getting them set out just right and finding a spare socket or two to plug them in. No easy task.
Let’s start with those lights:
Firstly always buy lights that have a CE mark and a BS-EN number.
Make sure that they’re suitable for where you want to put them. Any mains voltage lights that you want to put outside must have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating of at least IP44. Fortunately nowadays most Christmas lights are low voltage LEDs and are therefore intrinsically much safer, they’ll have a transformer to take the voltage down to as little as 5v, so if the light string will be OK outside, they’ll be safe. Remember that the plug will usually need to be inside the house though.
Now with the lights chosen and fixed where you want, you’ll need to get them powered up….
If you have European two pin plugs fitted to the lights you MUST NOT plug them directly in to a UK style socket – this is not safe and it will damage the socket, making it unsafe to use even with a UK plug.
Always use the correct type of fused adaptor (with the correct size fuse fitted) or better still change the plug if possible. Earthed Schuko plugs MUST have an earthed adaptor, if not or if you decide to put these in a UK socket without an adaptor, your lights or appliance will not be earthed and it is extremely dangerous.
Now with plugs and adaptors in hand and no socket where you need one, let’s break out the extension leads.
It’s absolutely fine to use extension leads as a temporary solution to get power where you need it, you just have to be sensible about things.
As with your lights only buy extension leads that are CE marked and get one that is long enough rather than plugging several together to get where you need to.
In general, extensions are not waterproof though enclosures are available to put them in that will keep them dry. DO NOT rely on a plastic bag!
While it’s unlikely that even several sets of LED fairy lights will overload a 13A extension lead you must pay attention to the load you’re connecting to it. The most frequent problem is not having enough space on the extension for those bulky transformers to sit properly, or they’re too close together, which can cause them to overheat and fail or even worse!
Remember to switch off and unplug any extension lead when it’s not being used.
If you’re unsure about anything regarding the suitability of your lights, plugs, adaptors, extension leads or how much load you have connected to an extension, you should speak to a competent electrician or your local specialist store who should be able to give you advice.