Is it safe to take the blinders off now that the Holidays are almost overwith? I do not think it's possible to enforce the electrical code on the multiple code violations people have when they put up their decorations. The only safety net we have is that a big share of them are plugged into GFCI protected openings (I can dream can't I?).
Hope all had a safe holiday and lets look forward to a more productive year in '07.
George, you bring up a few good points. I'd like to toss out a few of them, and maybe stir up some discussion.
I expect that, strictly speaking, the NEC really doesn't apply "after the plug." Those would be appliance issues, not code issues. Even the famous example of dozens of plugs all cobbled together presents no real hazard, as long as the loads are minor.
The wrong equipment used? Cords subject to damage? Sure- but I can't really see what can be done to protect fools from themselves.
Lights with counterfeit UL lables? Sure, but I don't see what Joe Homeowner can do about that.
Some design issues certainly come up. Even today, I see very few homes built with a deliberate allowance for holiday lighting. A lot of 'jury rigging' would be avoided if only a few receptacles were added where lights are likely to be.
We've seen some awesome displays, some with computer controlled lights synchronised to music. This certainly shows a willingness to put lost of effort into doing displays "right."
Maybe a "standard" home ought to have some receptacles in the eaves, a timer built in, and perhaps a couple "Christie" boxes scattered around the yard.
Yet, I get lots of opposition to the required two outdoor receptacles; even more opposition when I want to put them on dedicated circuits. Receptacles under the eaves are unacceptable when presented as "holiday lights," but embraced when presented as "for ice melting." (The last issue, remember, brings up GFI issues).
I'm not sure what to do about receptacles in the shrubbery. At best, they get grown over and covered with mulch; at worst, they get run into with great gusto by the gardener. It never seems you can mount a "Bell" box well enough, and such boxes corrode away when placed in the ground.
I got tired of bell box problems hanging on raceways or rotten 4x4s so I have mine mounted on 3x3 square aluminum tube, set in concrete. I ran water up into the 3x3 and have a hose bib on one side, the plastic FS box on the other with RNC coming up the outside of the post. I have a few of these scattered around the yard. You can sometimes find short pieces of the 3x3 at the scrap yard (along with your stolen wire). I got mine from the screen cage guy in bronze to match my screen cage but you will find white and brushed/anodized too.
I would think that it might be the Fire Marshal who would have more clout when it comes to the "after the plug" way of looking at holiday lighting. I have seen Fire Marshals wreak havoc in commercial buildings when it comes to plug strips and extension cords. I have also seen them require non UL listed rope lights be removed from around windows in retail stores. I think if I saw something that really bothered me I might ask my friendly neighborhood Fire Marshal to join me in doing a little field inspection and see what he had to say about it. Better he be the Scrooge than me. What do you think George?
The fire marshal does not have as much clout in a dwelling as he does in a place open to the public. A homeowner can simply deny him entry. I know inspectors think they have rights to access private property but that is only true if they have an open permit or a warrant. I got this from a muni court judge who addressed a BOAF meeting. "Law" is one of our required CEUs in Florida these days along with ADA/accessibility.