How much do Christmas lights add to my electric bill?

How much do Christmas lights add to my electric billplay

How technology can help your Christmas decorations

With these tech tips, you can easily make your Christmas decorations shine.

ProblemSolved, USA TODAY

If you need a reason to save money when planning a holiday light that will outshine the sun, remember these inconvenient truths:

Our Christmas lights burn so brightly they can be seen from space. By one estimate, Americans use more energy to power their Christmas lights than the country of El Salvador uses for everything in an entire year. The sap that brings to life our 15-foot-tall inflatable blinking Rudolphs and our 20-foot-tall flagpole trees with 1,200 light bulbs could cool 14 million refrigerators.

Many Americans — and some entire neighborhoods — are using more energy than ever before on their Christmas decorations: putting them up earlier, leaving them up later, and leaving no patch of lawn unlit.

“People are starting to decorate right after Halloween,” said Bianca Soriano, a spokeswoman for Florida Power and Light. “If you start November 1st and they last until, say, New Year’s Day, that’s two months of additional energy.”

Do you want to know how much electricity these Christmas lights use? There is a formula for this

According to an analysis by the Today’s Homeowner website, the average household spent an estimated $16.48 on powering Christmas lights in 2022, nearly $2 more than in 2021.

There are ways to predict these costs. Kiplinger, the personal finance website, offers a wonderfully geeky formula for calculating a vacation electric bill:

[wattage/1000 x time in hours] x costs per kWh in cents = costs for operating the Christmas lights

For those who find formulas daunting, Duke Energy offers a less mathematically demanding alternative.

If you string together five C9 strings of 2-inch bulbs for a total of 500 bulbs and want to run them for six hours a day, Duke’s calculator says you’ll spend $63 during the vacation month.

If you switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs, the same one-month display costs just $9. And if you switch to mini LED bulbs shaped like little candles, your cost drops to 60 cents.

A 2008 Department of Energy study found that seasonal lighting alone used 6.6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2007.

That’s more energy than the nation of El Salvador used in a year at the time, according to a report by Todd Moss, executive director of the Energy for Growth Hub, an energy justice think tank. His 2015 piece went viral. A backlash followed.

“The people on the left said, ‘They should stop wasting all this electricity,’ and the people on the right said, ‘They’re trying to destroy Christmas,’” Moss said.

Moss points out that the 6.6 billion kilowatt figure “has probably fallen since then because lighting has become much more efficient.” But he’s also noticing a significant escalation in the holiday light wars, at least in his neighborhood outside the District of Columbia.

“People are doing their best and really covering their whole house,” he said.

Do you want to reduce the electricity costs for your Christmas lights? Go LED

If you want to save on electricity while putting on a Clark Griswold-sized Christmas spectacle, go with LED.

According to the Department of Energy, LED bulbs use at least 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

To illustrate the difference, ComEd calculated how much Clark Griswold could have saved even with LED lights.

You may remember that the Griswold patriarch of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” set out to stage the brightest house on the block, armed with 25,000 Italian fairy lights.

If light bulbs burned five hours a day for a month, that display would cost the Griswolds $7,462 in today’s dollars, ComEd calculates.

With LED lights, the price drops to $1,612, still a surprisingly high sum.

But those are the films.

“I don’t know anyone who’s putting up 25,000 lights,” said James Gherardi, a spokesman for Exelon, ComEd’s parent company.

Here you will find more energy saving tips that can help you save money even beyond the holidays. Try some of these inside and outside your home.

Don’t rush to hang your Christmas decorations

FPL’s Soriano has noticed that her neighbors in South Florida seem to be decking the halls earlier and earlier in recent years.

Two months of Christmas lights cost more than a month. You might even annoy your holiday-shy neighbors by turning off the lights in November. Why not wait a while?

Consider solar energy

Solar-powered Christmas lights may cost a little more (about $40 for this four-pack on Amazon), but they can save you on electricity bills in the long run.

As Popular Mechanics reports, solar power can also save you the hassle of running wires to outlets. Here are the magazine’s top solar picks.

Put your Christmas lights on a timer

Plan to turn them on at sunset and turn them off at bedtime. No one will notice her at lunchtime. No one will be there to see them at 3 a.m.

Consider the inflatable Santa Claus again

Inflatables abound in Millennial Christmas decorations, but they come at a price.

“Inflatable boats use a lot of energy,” Soriano said. “You can hear the fan running.”

According to Landmark Creations, maker of custom inflatable boats, your standard 8-foot inflatable boat costs 4 cents an hour, or about a dollar a day, in electricity if it runs 24 hours a day.

“If you have five — you have a Santa Claus, a reindeer, a Grinch — each of them is going to increase your electricity usage,” Soriano said.

Beware of phantom power

Holiday decorations containing electronic components can consume energy even when they appear to be turned off, a quotient of wasted energy that our Energy Department calls a “phantom load.”

For large and complex displays, consider using a “smart” power strip that turns off power completely when you flick the switch.

This is the worst day, the worst airport: What you should know for a smooth holiday flight

Turn off the lights when you leave town

This tip raises a philosophical question: Are your Christmas lights intended for you or your neighbors?

Turning everything off when you fly to Tulum on Christmas Eve is “a bit of a shame,” Gherardi said, “because you want to see your house in its holiday form throughout December.”

But turning off the lights is certainly safer than leaving them on while you’re away. And if you want to save a few bucks on electricity, this is a great way to do it.

Make a New Year’s resolution to turn off the lights

The weekend after New Year’s is a good time to turn on the lights and let the elves out.

Think about it: Is there anything sadder than a wilted Santa Claus in the yard in February?


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