It’s just a fact of nature: everyone has either an innie or an outie. But the terms ‘innie’ and ‘outie’ can apply to more than just navels. Your Christmas lights are also either innies or outies. That’s because some Christmas lights are designed for just indoor use, and others are designed for both indoor use and outdoor use.
Why does it matter? Well, if you’re using outside lights for indoor decorating, it really doesn’t. But if you’re using indoor lights for outdoor displays – that’s a problem.
Because indoor lights really aren’t designed to stand up to the rigors of outdoor life. And the problems that result could be considerably more serious than your lights giving up the ghost sooner than you expect.
It’s a Matter of Safety
If you use indoor Christmas lights for outdoor use, it’s true that they probably won’t last as long as you might expect. But there are a couple of differences between indoor and outdoor lights that could also be a safety issue.
Light strings designed for outdoor use are constructed with a heavier gauge wire. That makes them more able to safely bear the electrical loads of the longer runs that are typically used in outdoor displays. So if light strings designed for indoor use are pressed into service in the long runs of an outdoor display, they’re more likely to have problems bearing the electrical load. And that means an increased risk of fire.
Outdoor light strings are further fortified for life out-of-doors by incorporating an ultraviolet light inhibitor in the plastic of the wire insulation. UV light from the sun can be very destructive, and will quickly break down unprotected plastic that is exposed to many hours of sunlight. That means that the insulation of indoor lights is more likely to become cracked or frayed when used outdoors. And that also increases the risk of a fire.
Outdoor lights are also designed to be more moisture-resistant, so it’s less likely you’ll experience an electrical short as a result of rain or snowfall.
How to Tell Innies from Outies
Any Christmas lights you purchase in North America should be labeled for either indoor or outdoor use by an independent testing laboratory. In the USA, the lights you buy will likely be labeled by Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL).
The UL label will indicate whether the light set is labeled for indoor or outdoor use. A green image on the label indicates that the light set is rated for indoor use only. A red image indicates that the set is rated for both indoor and outdoor use. And text on the label will plainly state whether the set is suitable for outdoor use.
If there’s no label on the light set you’re considering buying? Do your Christmas light shopping elsewhere.
Don’t Become a Statistic…
Home fires resulting from Christmas light problems occur every holiday season. Light-related fires don’t happen frequently, but every year the holiday season comes to an abrupt and tragic end for a few unfortunate families.
It’s worth taking a few precautions to reduce the risk of your family joining that unhappy group. And one of the easiest ways to reduce that risk is simply to know your innies from your outies.