Millions of homeowners are putting their homes and families at risk by leaving their Christmas lights on when they go or go to bed, a report suggests.
While insurers will generally uphold claims related to fire damage from festive lights, Zurich UK has warned that unsafe poor quality lights and other electrical decorations, overloaded plugs and dried out trees are all potential fire hazards.
According to Zurich UK’s research, three quarters of Britons will illuminate their Christmas tree with electric lights.
Tree risk: Millions could unknowingly be putting their homes and loved ones at risk by creating a potential fire hazard through leaving their Christmas tree lights on permanently
However, people could unknowingly be putting their homes and loved ones at risk with six per cent leaving their Christmas tree lights on permanently, not turning them off until they take them down.
A further six per cent leave them on overnight – only turning them off when the house is empty.
Jake Thomas, electrical technical services manager for Pimlico Plumbers, warned that even though Christmas lights bought from a reputable source are ‘pretty safe’, there is still a risk of fire due to overloading sockets, particularly if there’s an underlying issue with the electrical wiring.
He advised: ‘Personally I’d always recommend that people switch lights off at bedtime and when they leave the house, just to be on the safe side.’
Phil Ost, home insurance expert, Zurich, added: ‘Christmas is a time for celebrating and decorations are a central part of that.
Pick a fresh tree that’s unlikely to catch on fire and make sure your lights are in good condition and meet the right standards
‘However, while Christmas tree lights add festive sparkle, they can also be dangerous if a few very simple checks are overlooked.
‘Poor quality lights, overloaded electrical sockets and lights left on overnight, or while you’re out of the house, can put your home at risk.’
The elderly are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the possibility of electrical fires.
A recent survey conducted this year by consumer charity Electrical Safety First reveals that worryingly, one in eight Britons that are planning to put Christmas lights on their real tree this year even though they are in bad condition.
One in four describes their Christmas tree lights as being tangled, risking frayed wires or damaged insulation.
Damaged lights wrapped around a dry tree pose a potentially lethal risk. Of those surveyed some Brits planned on decorating their tree with lights up to 30 years old.
Emma Drackford, director of communications at Electrical Safety First commented: ‘The worrying speed with which a real Christmas tree can burn makes it advisable that consumers consider break with tradition this year, as if your fake tree catches fire you’re likely to have considerably more time to get out.
‘Whether your Christmas tree is real or fake, it’s vitally important that you ensure any lights on or around it are in good condition and plugged into sockets that aren’t overloaded.
‘Also, station your tree away from any heat sources such as radiators and never leave festive lights switched on when you leave the house or go to bed.’
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