How to put up a Griswold-sized Christmas light display without blowing the utility bill


If you need a reason to save when planning a holiday light display that outdoes the sun, consider these inconvenient truths:

Our holiday lights burn so bright, you can see them from space. Americans are using more energy to power their holiday lights, according to one estimate, than the nation of El Salvador uses for everything in an entire year. The juice that animates ours 15 foot, inflatable flashing Rudolphs and spring 20 foot flagpole tree with 1,200 bulbs could cool 14 million refrigerators.

Many Americans – and some entire neighborhoods – using more energy than ever on their holiday farm displays: setting them up earlier, running them later and leaving no turf unlit.

“People start decorating, like right after Halloween now,” said Bianca Soriano, Florida Power and Light spokeswoman. “If you start on November 1Stand let’s say you keep them on until New Years, that’s two months of extra energy.”

Want to know how much power these holiday lights use? There is a formula for that

The average household spent an estimated $16.48 operating holiday lights in 2022nearly two dollars more than in 2021, according to an analysis by the website Today’s Homeowner.

There are ways to anticipate these costs. Kiplinger, the personal finance site, offers a wonderfully nerdy formula to calculate an electricity bill for the holiday:

[wattage/1000 x time in hours] x cost per kWh in cents = cost of running Christmas lights

For those who find formulas off-putting, Duke Energy provides a less math-intensive alternative.

If you plan to put in five strings of C9, two-inch bulbs, a total of 500 bulbs, and run them six hours a day, you’ll spend $63 during the holiday month, according to Duke’s calculator.

If you switch to energy-efficient LED lights, the same month-long display will cost only $9. And if you downsize to mini-LEDs, the ones shaped like tiny candles, your cost drops to 60 cents.

A 2008 study from the Department of Energy found that seasonal lighting alone consumed 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 from Todd Moss, executive director of the Energy for Growth Hub, an energy liquidity think tank. His work from 2015 went viral. Backlash followed.

“People on the left said, ‘You should stop wasting all that electricity,’ and people on the right said, ‘You’re trying to kill Christmas,'” Moss said.

Moss notes that the 6.6 billion kilowatt figure “has probably gone down since then, because lighting has become much more efficient.” But he also notes a clear escalation in the weekend light war, at least in his neighborhood outside the District of Columbia.

“People go out and really cover the whole house,” he said.

Do you want to lower the energy costs of your holiday lighting? Go LED

The big takeaway here, if you want to save power while still staging one Clark Griswold-size holiday spectacle, is to go LED.

Led lamps use at least 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than old light bulbs, according to the Department of Energy.

To illustrate the difference, ComEd calculated how much Clark Griswold himself might have saved with LED light.

You may recall that the Griswold patriarch from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation set out to stage the brightest house on the block, armed with 25,000 Italian twinkle lights.

With bulbs burning five hours a day for a month, ComEd estimates, that display would cost Griswold $7,462 in today’s dollars.

With LED lights, the price drops to $1,612, still a surprisingly large amount.

But those are the movies.

“I don’t know anybody who puts up 25,000 lights,” said James Gherardi, a spokesman for Exelon, the parent company of ComEd.

Here are more energy saving tips, which you can use after the holidays to save money. Try some of them inside and outside your home.

Don’t be in a rush to set up your holiday display

Soriano, of FPL, has noticed that her South Florida neighbors seem to be decorating the halls earlier in recent years.

Two months of holiday lighting costs more than one month. You can even annoy your more holiday-minded neighbors by turning off the lights in November. Why not wait a while?

Consider solar energy

Solar powered holiday lights can cost a bit more (about $40 for this four-pack on Amazon), but they can save electricity costs in the long term.

As Popular Mechanics reports, solar power can save you the trouble of running wires to outlets. Here is the newspaper’s best solar power choice.

Put your holiday lights on a timer

Time them to go on at sunset and off at bedtime. No one will notice them at dinner time. No one will be around to see them at 3 in the morning.

Think about that inflatable Santa

Inflatable boats abound on millennial vacations, but they come with a price.

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

Your standard eight foot inflatable dinghy costs 4 cents an hour or about a dollar a day in electricity, if it’s running 24-7, according to Landmark Creations, maker of custom inflatables.

“If you have five — you have Santa, a reindeer, a Grinch — each one of those will increase your electricity consumption,” Soriano said.

Beware of phantom power

Christmas decorations with electronic components can use energy even when they appear to be offa quota of wasted power as our energy department expresses a “phantom load”.

For large and complex displays, consider using a “smart” power strip, which shuts off the power completely when you press the power switch.

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

Turn off the lights if you leave town

This tip raises a philosophical question: Is your holiday light display for you or your neighbors?

Turns everything off when you fly to Tulum on Christmas Eve is “kind of boring,” Gherardi said, “because you want to see your house in its holiday shape for the whole month of December.”

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

Make a New Year’s resolution to remove the lights

The weekend after New Year’s Day is a good time to roll up the lights and empty the Santas.

Think about it: Is there anything sadder than a withered plot in February?

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