Increase Your Gift-Giving Budget by Saving on Holiday Lighting

By Vernon Trollinger, December 11, 2015, Energy Efficiency, Save Money

I always watch the annual installment of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I’m a fan of the scene where Charlie Brown laments how Snoopy is going “commercial” by decorating his doghouse for aChristmas lighting competition. Suffice to say – A LOT has changed about holiday decorations since that show first aired in the mid-1960’s.

Nowadays, glamorous holiday lighting displays are often part of efforts to raise money for local charities. For example, the legendary Faucher House in Bear, DE – with its one million-plus lights – raises donations for charities. Here in Texas, Santa’s Wonderland in College Station partners with local food bands, Boys & Girls Clubs, and more.

Increase Your Gift-Giving Budget by Saving on Holiday Lighting

Stellar holiday lighting doesn’t mean you have to burn your gift-giving budget.

Everyone loves lighting their homes for the holidays — to some degree. But not only are displays like those a lot of work, they can also cost a LOT of money to run. After all, powering a modest display of 70,000 lights can add a couple of hundred to your monthly bill, and this can chew a big hole into your gift-giving budget.

How Not to Burn Up Your Gift-Giving Budget on Holiday Lighting

Setting aside how ambitious your decorating plans might be, the biggest factor limiting your light display are the bulbs you plan to use. While sets with old-school incandescent bulbs are cheaper, they put out far more heat than they do light. Up to 90% of the energy they use is lost as heat— even mini lights.

Consequently, incandescent lights use considerably more electricity compared to LED bulbs. A regular 50-bulb incandescent mini light set will eat 20.4 watts. In order to prevent their 3 amp protection fuses from blowing, manufacturers recommend these light strings be limited to 3 sets.

Meanwhile, a similar set of 50 LED mini lights will use just 4.8 watts. Plus, you can string 5 or 6 of these sets together and still be safe.

For example: Let’s say you wanted to string 200 lights on the front of you home.

  • You would need 10 incandescent bulb sets using 3 outlets and burn a total of 81.6 watts per hour.
  • If you used LED lights, you would use 1 outlet and burn only 19.2 watts per hour.

While that might seem meager in terms of savings, scale it up into the hundreds (if not thousands) of lights glowing for 6 to 8 hours a night for about month. The differences in cost build rapidly.

How You Can Save

Increase Your Gift-Giving Budget by Saving on Holiday Lighting

If you HAVE to go overboard with your holiday lighting, at try to opt for energy efficient LED light bulbs.

Gather together information on the holiday lights you use in order to estimate how much they might cost you this season. One easy way to reduce the amount of electricity your current lights consume? Put them on timers to turn on and off automatically instead of leaving them on all night. You can also incorporate reflective and shiny decorations to add more shimmer and shine to your display without using any power at all.

If you have several strings of incandescent lights, consider purchasing some Energy Star Qualified Decorative Light Strings. Energy Star lights use 0.2W per bulb, consume 50% less energy than conventional incandescent lights strands, and have a 3-year warranty.

Some home improvement centers and hardware stores currently offer rebates on new LED sets if you bring in your old lights for recycling. Not only will you save on energy, you can save on replacing bulbs and entire string sets year after year.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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