Aluminum Christmas trees: An important caution

no-el282Many thanks to readers who spotted the caution — Do not hang electric lights on aluminum Christmas trees — on the website about vintage Christmas lights. With some additional research, I uncovered a news release from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, dated 1978, that also warned of the potential for electrical hazards when you combine metallic Christmas trees with electric lights:

Never use Christmas lights on a metallic tree because a person could be electrocuted if the tree becomes charged with electricity from metallic tree needle decorations getting into the light sockets.

I am also going to point to another caution: that frayed wiring of your Christmas lights has the potential to start off the hazardous electrical chain. Note, damaged wiring can cause fires on any sort of tree.

Seems that aluminum is a conductor of electricity, so if you put electric lights on it, you have the necessary ingredients to create shock and/or fire. So take notice – and take care! The smart — and easy — thing to do with vintage aluminum trees: Hang ornaments…and use a color wheel. In fact, it seems that color wheels were devised to get right around the electric-hazard issue of stringing lights onto aluminum.

This is an opportune time for me to remind readers that on this blog, I do not generally allow readers to offer safety or environmental advice.  I advise folks to empower themselves by doing their own research and consult with pros/experts regarding their own particular situation. This precaution regarding aluminum Christmas trees and electric lights, though, is validated on a government website, so I thought it would be of value to readers, many of whom may have aluminum trees, which only seem to grow and grow as a desired collectible.

Relatedly, here is the U.S. Fire Administration’s page on Electrical Fire Safety in the Home. Ensuring you have safe wiring in your home, appliances, motors, etc. is another thing that should be on your radar if you are the owner of a vintage home or any home, period.

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Comments

  1. says

    Pam, thanks for the safety advice. I absolutely love my aluminum tree and color wheel and look forward to putting it up every year. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard with tones of nostalgia, “My grandmother had one of these”, from my friends who see it for the first time. Keep up the good work and Happy Holidays!

  2. Cindy says

    Last night I put up and decorated the silver Christmas tree with my mother’s old 1960s Christmas decorations. Now I need a color wheel. There are specialized lights that you can put on these trees but they are quite pricey.

  3. MrsErinD says

    Thanks Pam. Yes, I was going to tell you, I recieved my tree yesterday and on the instructions it says to not use lights it’s a shock hazard.

    But it’s all decorated with ornaments and you guys were right, doesn’t need anything else, it’s so shiny a sparkly on it’s own I love it!

  4. Mick says

    Pam, you have NO IDEA how many times i have said that this Season! haha Before School let out I was living with 3 other room mates ALL of which tired to put lights on my 4 ft Aluminum tree!!! haha So much to th epaint I made a little sign that said “LISTEN UP!… you can not put ELECTRIC lights on an ALUMINUM tree… bad things WILL happen” No one got shocked but still, it could be pretty dangerous!

  5. Anita says

    I love the vintage aluminum trees. They have a completely different style than the reproduction ones. I bought a repro one last year b/c I wanted a taller height and wanted lights on it. So why can’t someone make a repro that is taller than 6′ that looks like the originals???? And can safely have lights?

  6. says

    I wonder if this is still true for the LED light strings? they are pretty much factory sealed. I’m rockin’ a color light wheel now though, even though sometimes it decides it doesn’t want to spin.

  7. sablemable says

    My vintage aluminum tree is absolutely beautiful with the color wheel! From the outside it looks as if there are a trillion different colored lights twinkling and sparking. Everyone has said we have the prettiest tree on the street!

  8. Kory Carroll says

    I am thrilled to say as a Collector and avid Fan of the Aluminum Christmas Tree, I now have 218 all sizes, all original, all with vintage Christmas Ornaments, and Color Wheels. I am probably the biggest Admirer of them. I Treasure each and every one I have. One Day I am going to put everyone up, but for now, I have 13 set up. :) Please don’t put anykind of Lights on them except for a Color Wheel. Having Lights on them will take the Real Vintage look of them. You can buy new Color Wheels from Harriet carter or Lillian Vernon Catalogs. here is a short Video of My Livingroom this Year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrJYtW0L3k8 Merry Kitschmas Everyone! Kory

  9. Kyle says

    If you’re in the Chicago area, check out Rosebud Antiques in Lagrange/Countryside (on Lagrange Rd just south of Plainfield Rd). They had a dozen or more vintage aluminum trees. Most were the silver, but they had one or two green ones and a gold one. The trees were in good shape – and priced accordingly. They had quite a few vintage color wheels as well. The store is filled with the vintage blown plastic lawn characters and other vintage Christmas ornaments. I ended up buying a new color wheel at “American Sale”, a chain of pool/spa stores in the Chicago burbs that sells Christmas items in the off-season. (The color wheel was sold-out online, and they had only two or three left in their stores as of yesterday when I got mine.) In the American Sale store they did have the revolving tree stands and an assortment of the blown plastic lawn decorations.

  10. James says

    In the 60s, I remember our neighbors down the street having an aluminum tree, and they put lights on it. I remember my mother telling me how dangerous this was, even then!

  11. says

    We have a “regular” artificial tree with white lights and almost every ornament I’ve collected in my 46 years on this earth. We also have a “copper penny” tree that I bought a few years ago at Hobby Lobby – it has the effect of the old silver aluminum trees, but it’s copper colored. I’ve hung only glass ornaments featuring gold, bronze and red, with glitter … it’s near a window and the sunlight during the day just makes it sparkle … thanks for the safety tip for those who may not realize certain combinations can be dangerous!

    Everyone have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

  12. Anastasia says

    I was born in ’78. So while I’ve SEEN a color wheel I never put the 2 together. (In fact I thought you meant artists color wheel which is something else) Guess that explains why white trees are one of my earlier memories, with the changing lights they could be ANY color!

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