Christmas lights > Energy Tips

Q: We recently saw a rerun of Chevy Chase’s movie where he puts about 25,000 holiday lights on his house and the electric meter spins and smokes like crazy. It got me wondering if small holiday lights like we use are costing a lot to operate. Are they?

A: I wouldn’t worry too much about the effects of these lights on your electric bill, but testing conducted at the Florida Solar Energy Center a few years ago confirms that even these small loads can add up to a noticeable increase in your electric bill, possibly being bigger than you think.

Their research on the lighting energy use in 185 homes before and after the holiday season found an average increase in lighting when holiday lights were being used of about 4.4 kWh per day, around $13 for a month-long display. Note that this was for the average home, and while many people have small light displays or none at all, we’ve all seen homes that clearly go above and beyond the average.

What was especially interesting was their finding about the dramatic difference in energy use by bulb type, ranging from 34 watts being used by 100 of the clear mini indoor/outdoor bulbs to more than 504 watts used by the large colored 10-watt outdoor bulbs. The findings strongly suggest that you consider energy-efficient lighting even for your holiday displays. Check out some of the newer bulbs at a local store or on the Web and you’ll find a number of brands featuring LED or other higher-efficiency types

The moral of the story here is that you probably won’t regret paying $13 for an average lighting display this holiday season and you may feel this low price will justify an even bigger display than you had originally planned. But this points out how every electrical appliance or product you use will have some energy costs associated with it. In a case like these lights, why not consider getting LED lights that use one-tenth of the energy of the conventional ones?

Check out http://www.energyideas.org/pages/default.cfm?oh,ps&cz,87 for more information on efficient lights along with places where you can buy them. Save a few dollars on the holiday lighting, a few more on the energy-efficient toaster oven you buy your spouse, turn off your computer monitor when you’re not using it, and a few other behaviors like this and you’re suddenly saving “real” money.

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