Scary stuff: Watch wires, candles at Halloween


 Q . What precautions should I take when putting up Halloween decorations?

 A. There are many possible mishaps with Halloween decorations. Homeowners should be careful with candles, decorations, and indoor/outdoor lighting.

In the HVAC industry, we often receive calls for soot buildup after the Halloween season. Many people don't realize that indoor candles may cause this buildup. Open-flame candles burn for days throughout the house and can circulate soot. Even candles inside carved pumpkins produce soot. So if you find large amounts of soot or dirty dust particles in your filter, it's probably a result of Halloween candles, not your HVAC or oil/gas furnace.

Although it's recommended to change your filter monthly, you might want to change after the Halloween holiday in order to get rid of soot buildup, especially if you used lots of indoor candles. If you don't have a filter, the soot may trigger allergies and may discolor walls, fabric, and furniture.

Another concern is outdoor lighting. Although Christmas lights are more prevalent, many homeowners are starting to use outdoor lighting for Halloween decorations. Be sure to use appropriate extension cords and electrical protection. One hint: the more lights, and the further distance away from the electrical receptacle, the larger extension cord you need. For exterior lighting, use 12- or 14-gauge wire (diameter of wire or wire size), especially for long-distance lighting.

If you use smaller cords, you may overheat the extension cord and possibly set it on fireĀ­ you really would have a Halloween. If any portion of the extension cord is warmer than the surrounding temperature, you're probably overloading the cord. Go to any hardware store and buy a larger extension cord.

With outdoor lights, always check the weather. If it's wet and rainy, the lights need to be outdoor-rated and weatherproof. Indoor lights cannot be used outside on rainy nights. For the best protection, there are new receptacles, called in-use weatherproof covers, which allow you to plug in a cord to an outside receptacle and still remain protected from the weather. You never want to expose a plug to outside weather.

For indoor lighting, you need to be careful because even mini-clears become hot. Keep these lights away from decorations, like sheer curtains used for spookiness. Do not let the bulbs touch the decorations, especially for long periods of time. The contact between paper and heat can certainly start a house fire.

In the past, we've had to add larger circuits for Halloween parties and decorations. Although the holiday is fun for everyone, be sure to check electrical capacities and locate potential hazards for house fires.

Guy Cohen