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Can String Lights Catch On Fire? (A guide to fire safety)

Can String Lights Catch On Fire? (A guide to fire safety)

When you decorate with fairy lights, led lights, Christmas lights, or other bulbs, you are bound to wonder if these lights are safe. Could your string lights actually start a fire?

It is possible for string lights to catch fire, but there are ways to limit your risk — Using modern LED light bulbs over older incandescent bulbs is a great start. Modern LEDs consume less energy, emit less heat, and will not overload an outlet as quickly as incandescent bulbs. All of these things reduce the overall risk of a fire.

But do not throw out your heirloom holiday lights just yet.

We have the rundown on how to safely decorate with fairy lights this holiday season. With safety tips, ideas, things to watch for, and some other options to try, you will be ready to confidently and safely decorate like a lighting professional.

String Light Fire Safety Ideas

Generally, it is important to keep your fairy lights in good condition. Avoid plugging in damaged strands and never touch exposed wires. Also, repair or replace any burnt-out bulbs, but only when the strand is unplugged. Taking caution around any plugged-in electric devices is the first step in lighting safety.

Below, find our other tips and things to consider when getting ready to decorate with lights or other electronic devices this holiday season.

Keep Away Combustible Materials

It may seem like common sense to keep your string lights away from combustible materials like flammable liquids, fabrics, or paper, but what else can you do to prevent fires?

Fairy lights and Christmas lights tend to be considered safe, however, it is best to take extra precautions to avoid accidental fires. Keep your lights away from flammable materials and avoid overcrowding the lights or placing too many on the same outlet.

Some cheaper led manufacturers skimp on quality materials within the lights and may have a higher actual wattage than what is listed on the package. The higher wattage can increase the amount of strain on the outlet fairy lights are plugged into.

Even still, it is rare that your Christmas led lights will catch fire, but you can minimize the chance of spread by keeping the area clear from flammable material.

Heat Dissipation

When deciding whether or not something is a fire hazard, you have to look at the opportunities for the light to create a fire.

So, do string lights get hot enough to start a fire?

The answer depends on what type of string lights you are using. LED lights are low risk and do not get hot enough to start a fire. Incandescent lights do get warmer than LED lights, but it is still rare that they would get to warm enough to cause a fire.

Most of the time, your fairy lights are totally safe to leave on since they will not get hot enough to start a fire on their own. The risk of fire increases when you overload an outlet or have damaged, exposed wires or open bulb sockets.


So you have taken your holiday lighting to the next level and added Christmas lighting outdoors on your home or in your yard. But is it safe to have lighting outdoors in the snow or rain?

Using fairy lights or other light strings in your yard or outdoor spaces, it is important to ensure that these products are rated for outdoor use. To reduce the risk of lights catching fire, only choose outdoor approved fairy lights, led string lights, or Christmas lights. Also, be sure that these lights are plugged into a waterproof and outdoor-rated extension cord (like this one).

Whenever you are using lights or other electrical devices outdoors, it is important that they are plugged into a GFCI outlet. The GFCI outlet will trip if wet or overloaded, stopping the flow of electricity through the outlet. This will help prevent your lights from creating an unsafe and potentially disastrous event from happening if the lights were to short circuit.

For added precautions, be sure to unplug your outdoor lights in poor operating conditions like intense rain or snow to reduce fire hazards and shock risks. It is generally safer to unplug your lights when not in use to avoid damage from the outdoor elements or animals that may be curious and try to take a bite of your lights.

Usage Restrictions

When you take the time to decorate your home for the holidays, you tend to want to leave the lights on all night to fully take in the holiday spirit. After all, your Christmas tree glowing in fairy lights is the highlight of your evening when the sun goes down so early.

But is it safe to leave fairy lights on all night? What about my outdoor Christmas lights? Are they a fire hazard?

Incandescent bulbs on light strings have begun fading out over time due to being finicky and hard to diagnose when an issue arrives. These lights use more energy and electricity than LED lights, thus generating more heat. Incandescent bulbs can also overload an outlet much quicker than the low voltage LED light strand.

So be sure to choose LED bulbs for your fairy lights this holiday season. Since LED lights have a very low voltage, it is safe to leave them lit on your Christmas tree all night. These lights are safe for prolonged use making them a great addition to your holiday decor. Whether you are decorating with real trees or fake trees, you can rest assured that there is little to no fire risk when it comes to leaving Christmas lights on overnight.

The issue comes in when an outlet gets overloaded.

Do not plug too many light strings into one wall socket. The circuit may not be able to handle the electrical load and blow a fuse or spark. To reduce shock risk, only plug in two or three lights to an extension cord. This will also lower fire risks from the outlet getting overloaded and causing issues.

It may help if you read our article about how many string lights you actually need.

Battery Powered Lights

If you do not have a way to safely and properly install lighting fixtures inside or outside of your home, you may find that battery-operated led lights are a great option for you.

Battery-powered lights may be the perfect solution to all your lighting needs. They offer all the holiday spirit to your Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations without being a fire hazard.

Today, most battery-powered lights have long battery life and will easily make it through the entire holiday season in one set of batteries. You can extend battery life by switching your lights off when not in use to conserve energy. They even come in solar options, as we wrote about here.

Battery-operated led lights make a great addition to both indoor and outdoor spaces and emit light the same as plug-in led lights. Since fairy lights are battery-operated, you will have to turn them on and off manually, but the minor inconvenience may be worth it if you are nervous about plug-in lights being fire hazards or if you cannot safely use other led string lights.

Invest in a Fire Extinguisher

Investing in a fire extinguisher and knowing how to properly operate it is important. Fire experts say you should have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home.

Before choosing an extinguisher, you need to understand which type you need. Did you know there are 6 types of fire extinguishers and they all are used in different types of fires?

Our Recommendations

When it is time to choose your fire extinguisher, you do not have to look far. All local hardware and home improvement stores will have them. You can also find them online on Amazon.

We recommend this extinguisher from Amazon for your garage space. This extinguisher is also available for your kitchen space as well, making it easy to pick up and protect your entire home in one click!

Keep Emergency Numbers Handy

Whenever there is an active fire in your home, you need to call 911.

Even if you were able to put the fire out yourself with your fire extinguisher, there could be underlying issues that a professional firefighter should assess.

Keep the number of a local and trusted electrician handy as well. Before a fire or hazardous situation arrives, they will be able to check your outlets, wiring, and circuits to let you know if anything needs to be brought up to date or repaired.

Final Thoughts

Decorating your home with fairy lights or Christmas lights does not need to be stressful. Taking the proper precautions and steps allows you to enjoy your twinkling holiday lights all season long with little to no second thought on fire safety.

Ensuring that your home has proper GFCI outlets for outdoor lighting, not overloading your circuits, and keeping flammable materials away from your lighting decor are great ways to lower the risk of fire this holiday season and every other day.

Protect your home with fire extinguishers and keep an eye on their expiration dates! Hopefully, they will expire before they ever need to be used, but you do not want to reach for one and discover that they are!

Lighting and electricity can seem overwhelming sometimes. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to a local electrician for professional advice.

Now you have the answers to how to safely and properly install fairy lights safely and truly enjoy them!

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