leaving an artificial christmas tree plugged in can lead to fire risks, experts explain
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Experts Don’t Want You To Leave Your Fake Tree Plugged In

Take the proper precautions this holiday season.

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Between the twinkling lights and the sparkling ornaments, a Christmas tree in your home can feel absolutely magical. It's fairly common knowledge that a live tree can dry out and become a potential fire hazard, but the configuration of lights winding through branches can spell disaster if the proper precautions aren't taken — even when using an artificial tree. Artificial trees are an easy way to deck your halls all night long, but you have to know when you can and cannot leave an artificial tree plugged in.

When should you unplug your artificial tree?

You should unplug your artificial tree anytime you are away from your home or are asleep. Though it is rare, artificial Christmas trees can catch fire.

Fire risks are present when using an artificial tree due to the electrical component of lights built into an artificial tree. Because of this, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends always turning off Christmas tree lights of any kind "before leaving home or going to bed."

Is it safe to leave a Christmas tree on overnight?

Unfortunately, the risk of fire means that it is not safe to leave a Christmas tree on overnight.

The cause of 1 in every 4 home Christmas tree fires stems from electrical problems, the NFPA reported. This can definitely become an issue quickly with artificial trees that use electricity to keep the lights on, and become especially dangerous and damaging if you are asleep when a fire begins.

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Should I unplug my Christmas tree at night?

Since it is a potential fire hazard when plugged in, you should unplug your Christmas tree at night. In the event that you forget and leave your Christmas tree lights on all night, it is also best practice to protect your home against fire hazards that can occur with any type of Christmas tree or other holiday decor with electrical components.

"A fire can double in size every minute, so early detection and extinguishment is critical," Richey Austin, a Safety Health Environmental and Quality (SHEQ) professional based in Houston, Texas tells Romper. "That's why you need to verify your smoke detectors are functioning and that you have a working fire extinguisher nearby for emergency use."

Which artificial trees are best for home use?

When purchasing an artificial tree, there are steps you can take to help prevent a fire from igniting. Look for an artificial tree with safety elements can help reduce fire risks, such as a tree that features a flame retardant compound.

For example, the popular artificial tree manufacturer Balsam Hill uses Antinomy Trioxide, an inorganic compound, in their trees to make them fire retardant and resistant. However, they do not recommend you leave an artificial Christmas tree plugged in overnight “for the safety of your trees and ornaments while you are asleep or not around,” a Balsam Hill representative tells Romper. As an extra precaution, "don't forget to turn off the power and close off your holiday-decorated rooms when you leave your home or go to bed," they say.

Be mindful of artificial tree cords & plugs

Above and beyond, purchasing a fire-resistant tree and ensuring the lights are not left on in your absence, experts say that you should inspect your tree's cords and ensure it is plugged in properly to reduce fire risks when the tree is plugged in. Austin tells Romper that taking proper precautions when using an artificial tree is key to keeping your family safe this holiday season. "Have it plugged into a protected GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) circuit. Do not over use extra extension cords plugged end to end, as it will overheat and cause increased fire risk," Austin says.

The cords of artificial trees are where much of the danger can lie, according to Austin. "Inspect cords for physical damage prior to use after unpacking," he says. "Also be careful of cord placement, and do not create a tripping hazard by placement across walking areas."

Although it is decidedly unsafe to keep your tree — artificial or real — plugged in when you're not home or are asleep, you can still enjoy a beautifully lit tree in your home when you keep these safety tips in mind throughout the holiday season.

Source interviewed:

Richey Austin, SHEQ Professional practicing in Houston, TX

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