Holiday lighting: To inspect or not to inspect, that is the question
As the holidays approach us some may wonder, do I need an electrical inspection to hang my holiday decorative lighting? The answer is maybe. I know, probably not the answer you were thinking. The decision to require an inspection often lies with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) along with any applicable laws. The AHJ will likely consider the type of lighting or wiring that is being installed when making the decision. If you are just hanging a few twinkling decorative lights around the house and on trees an inspection might not be needed, but if you are putting on a holiday lighting extravaganza like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, an inspection might be necessary, or probably should be. The 2023 National Electrical Code®, (NEC®), section 590.3(B) permits the installation of temporary holiday decorative lighting and associated wiring, as long as it is not up more than 90-days. This permission has nothing to do with the requirement or wavier of an electrical inspection but does provide the inspector with valuable information.
Another question that comes to mind surrounding string lights, the ones that are hung around a patio or along a fence for ambiance, would that require an inspection? Possibly, since the string lights may be considered lampholders by the AHJ and are often left up for longer periods. NEC Article 410, Part VIII, and section 225.24 cover lampholders and their wiring. Because string lights are installed in a more permanent manner, frequently, a fixed and not temporary wiring method is used to supply the power.
Section 590.2(B) indicates temporary wiring methods, including lighting, are acceptable only if approved based on conditions of use and any special requirements of the temporary installation. So how is it approved if it is not inspected by a qualified electrical inspector? Simple, it is not approved. So what is the AHJ looking for with temporary wiring or holiday decorative lighting installations? Typically, they are looking for:
- listing and labeling, sections 590.5, 410.6
- wet locations for lampholders, 410.96
- Location of outdoor lamps, section 225.25
- installation methods, section 225.24, 590.2
So, as the holidays near and we start digging into the boxes in our basements and attics for holiday decor, now is the time to consider your approach to safety. Ensure your holiday decorative lights, string lights, and associated wiring are hung in a safe and code compliant manner and request an inspection where available. By reducing electrical hazards in your home, you can help assure you and your family will enjoy a fun, festive, and safe holiday season.
NFPA has free resources to download and share, including a safety tip sheet on outdoor electrical safety, and a safety checklist. For more information, visit nfpa.org/electricalsafety.