Fixing lighting and replacing light bulbs are some of the most common electrical work people do at home. Making sure you have the right lights for the right purpose – particularly Christmas lights – is important for preventing fires, shocks and keeping your family safe.

If you are changing light bulbs or putting up Christmas lights, it’s important to make sure you have the right skills and tools for the job and you are using the correct lights for the purpose.

Light bulbs

  • Always install light bulbs that are the correct wattage and size for the fittings.
  • Don’t replace bulbs with a higher wattage than recommended as they can overheat, burn fixtures and fittings, and start fires.
  • Make sure bulbs are inserted correctly as loose bulbs may also overheat.  

Lighting safety checklist

  • Do you have the correct bulbs in your light fittings and lamps?
  • Are all light fittings around your home in good condition with no damage or exposed wiring, discolouration, funny noises or smells?

Christmas tree lights

Make sure you are buying approved Christmas lights and use them safely to prevent fires or shocks.

Lights with plugs that are not designed for use in New Zealand should be avoided. Here are some safety tips from WorkSafe for Christmas lights.

Don't buy or use Christmas lights (or other electronic goods) that:

  • do not have a New Zealand plug fitted
  • are supplied with a travel adaptor to fit a New Zealand socket outlet
  • have a cord that extends up (rather than down) from the plug or a plug with no covering insulation extending half way up the two plug pins
  • have been specifically prohibited in New Zealand

When using lights

  • If you have an older light set which has bulbs that operate at 230V (mains voltage), connect your lights to a Residual Current Device (RCD). The RCD will turn the power off if things go wrong, reducing the risk of a fatal electric shock. If you don't own an RCD already, you can buy one from any hardware or electronic store.
  • Check all lights – both old and new – for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. If you are unsure about their safety, have them checked by a licensed electrical worker.
  • Replace bulbs with ones of the same voltage and wattage. The wrong bulbs could overheat and start a fire. Always switch off and unplug light strings before replacing bulbs.
  • Turn off all Christmas lights when you go to bed or leave the house. If the lights develop a fault, they could start a fire.
  • A tingling sensation is usually a warning of danger. If you get a tingle from your lights or something touching them like decorations, turn the lights off immediately and get them checked by a licensed electrical worker.
  • Some Christmas lights are not suitable for repeated use and should be safely disposed of when no longer required.

Using Christmas lights outside

If you are using Christmas lights outside follow the above advice and also:

  • Check labels to make sure that they are suitable for outside use, and read all instructions carefully before installing your lights.
  • Clean the outside of your house before installing the lights. Spider webs, leaves and any other debris are a potential fire hazard.

Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use specially insulated clips to hold them in place and mount them out of reach.