If you're like many Americans, your Christmas lights started going up before the last Thanksgiving leftovers vanished from the fridge. Surveys suggest that the period between Thanksgiving and December 1 is the sweet spot for holiday decorating, with an average total budget of $384 for the decor.
Of course, that budget is far from the only cost of the season. Once those shiny new lights go up, you may be left wondering, "Do Christmas lights use a lot of electricity? How much extra power are we using?"
The answer is more complicated than you might think, but we'll break it down for you. Let's take a look at the typical costs of holiday lights, some energy-saving tips, and how to safely enjoy your new decor.
The good news is that the average light display won't usually drain too much power.
Of course, the key word here is "usually." Depending on the details of your display, you could spend anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred dollars more on your monthly electric bill.
Every display is different, so it's hard to predict exactly how much extra energy you might use. Here are a few factors that will influence how high your utility bills are:
On a smaller home, a few modest light strands can go a long way, but it takes more lights to decorate a larger property. The same is true of a small Christmas tree vs. a larger one.
Personal preference matters, too: if your goal is to rival the Griswolds with your elaborate display, expect your electrical usage to jump!
As you head down the store aisle to look for Christmas lights, don't underestimate how much your choice affects your power use. You'll see two main types of bulbs: incandescent or LED.
Incandescent bulbs are older models, and they're not very energy-efficient. If you've ever held a set of them in your hands, you'll feel heat radiating from them.
That's not a coincidence. These lights run at a high wattage and use most of the electricity they consume to produce heat. In other words, you're wasting power via heat loss from the second you put the strands up.
LED Christmas lights, on the other hand, use a lower wattage. This means they'll guzzle less electricity. Though they may cost a bit more up front, they also have a much longer lifespan, which is nice for your wallet.
In most cases, larger bulbs of the same type (meaning LED vs. incandescent lights) will need more energy than smaller bulbs of the same type. If you don't mind grabbing a few sets of mini lights, you could save a small amount of power across the season.
This one's probably the most obvious: the longer your lights are on, the more it will cost you. That said, most people won't spend too much extra by leaving their lights on for a few additional hours each night.
Looking for a more exact estimate? If you want to break down what your lights are costing you, do the math for your home.
First, check the packaging on your lights to find the wattage.
Multiply this by the total daily hours the lights will be on, and then divide by 1,000 to get the kilowatt hours (kWh). Multiply the kWh by what you pay for electricity (16 cents a month is the rough average here in Arizona). Then, multiply that number by how many days you'll use the lights.
Online calculators make this easier. Just don't forget to change the kWh to fit.
A few sets of low-wattage, energy-efficient LED lights won't eat up much electricity, even across an entire month. Still, there are a few ways to save money and reduce your energy consumption if you're concerned.
Consider hanging your lights a little closer to the holidays. Less time on display means less time using your home's energy.
We recommend using a simple timer that lets you schedule when you'd like your lights to come on. These come in analog options, but smart plugs may be your best bet.
Even if you don't use a timer, consider grabbing a power strip to pair with your lights. This can eliminate vampire loads (also called phantom loads), which are tiny bits of wasted energy a device consumes while it's plugged in, even if it's turned off.
You can also supplement your lights with battery-powered LED lights. For outdoor decoration especially, this can be a big win: there's no need to worry about extension cords or connections, freeing you up to get creative. Most modern battery sets even come with their own automatic timers.
Given how bright and pretty they look, you might not be aware that Christmas lights can become a hazard around your home. Using them the wrong way can put you at risk of a major electrical disaster!
Before you plug in your lights this year, consider doing a circuit check-up to make sure your home's system can handle the extra load. This is especially important if you're planning to go all out with your decor.
Be careful about the power cords you use. If the lights are going outdoors, use a heavy-duty cord rated for outdoor use, and keep it dry. Don't overload outlets with too many light strands, especially with incandescent lights.
Turn your lights off before you go to bed or when leaving your home.
Last, water your tree! Not only can a parched tree wither, but it can also be a fire hazard when wrapped with warm Christmas lights.
Do Christmas lights use a lot of electricity? The answer is up to you! With a bit of forethought, it's easy to save power and money this holiday season.
If you're hoping to ensure your household's safety this Christmas and beyond, Parker & Sons can help. We offer a range of electrical services, from inspections to repairs, to help customers get ready for the season's lighting demands. Contact us today to schedule your pre-holiday electrical check!