Ask the Expert: How holiday decorations affect your energy cost
If you are getting ready to put up holiday lights, it’s definitely a good idea to understand how much your decorations may impact your energy usage and bill. A number of things will influence your energy consumption, such as how elaborate of a display you have, and the number of lights and choice of bulbs – incandescent or LED.
While incandescent strands are cheap to buy, the cost to operate them is not. For example, a 100-count string of incandescent mini lights runs at 40 watts, while a 100-count of 5mm LEDs is approximately 4.8 watts, meaning LEDs use up to 90% less energy than comparable incandescent and last up to 10 times longer than traditional light strings.
And how about those charming C7 lights often used for outdoor décor? They are perfect for outlining walkways, driveways, fences, and roof lines. Incandescent C7 bulbs are not only a huge cost-driver but pose a planning challenge as only 2 strings can be connected end-to-end, which means you’ll need 6 different plug outlets. However, with the LED option, over 80 strands can be connected together and then plugged into a single outlet. As for the cost of powering C7s, you would pay more than 25 times as much in energy costs for incandescent C7s than C7 LEDs.
It’s true that LEDs are more costly upfront, but they will save you money in the long run. Let’s do some math to compare the costs associated with the more commonly used holiday lights.
LED mini-lights – 100 lights strand
- Cost: $19.99
- Lifespan: 20,000 hours
- Energy Use: approximately 4.8 watts
- Cost to operate (1 strand for 30 days): $ 0.14
C7 LEDs – set of 25 lights
- Cost: $24.99
- Lifespan: 50,000 hours
- Energy use: approximately 2.2 watts
- Cost to operate (1 strand for 30 days): $ 0.06
Incandescent mini-lights – 100 lights strand
- Cost: $2.69
- Lifespan: 2,000 hours
- Energy use: approximately 40 watts
- Cost to operate (1 strand for 30 days): $1.20
C7 lights – set of 25 lights
- Cost: $9.95
- Lifespan: 3,000 hours
- Energy use: approximately 125 watts
- Cost to operate (1 strand for 30 days): $3.25
Let’s look at the energy cost to plug in 10 strands for a 30 day period (10-hours per day)
SEASONAL OPERATING COST FOR HOLIDAY LIGHTS
|10 Hrs per day||30 days||
kWh rate $0.10*
|Watts/ Strand||X||# of strands||Total Watts||/1,000||(# hrs)||X||(#days)||X||
|C7s – LED||
|C7’s – incandescent||
*To calculate, we used .10 cents per kilo-watt per hour based on our residential customer rate.
FPL bill includes the state gross receipts tax but does not include credits, local taxes or fees that may be applicable in some jurisdictions.
How to calculate your holiday lighting energy usage:
Find out the total watts you’ll be using – you can usually find the wattage of each strand on the Underwriter’s Laboratories sticker or on the plug, or use the formula below for a quick estimate:
Watts per bulb x number of bulbs on the strand = total watts per strand
Once you have an idea of about how many total watts each strand will consume:
(# of watts/1,000) X (# of hours) X (# of days) X 0.10 per kilowatt-hour = cost to operate your strand of lights
Cost to operate each strand X # of strands you will be using = TOTAL ESTIMATED COST
Of course, you can control this cost by when you choose to put up your lights, how many strands you use and how long you have them on each evening. But, at least you can estimate how much it may add to your energy cost.
Have you ever wanted to put a giant inflatable reindeer or snowman in your yard?
As for those fun inflatable decorations that have become very popular in recent years, they are probably the most expensive, not only to purchase but also for the amount of energy they use. A large, animated snow globe can use about 200 watts. These are visible day and night, so let’s assume you leave it plugged in for 24 hours a day during the entire month of December. That would be a total of 149 kWh, which would add almost $15 to your energy bill.
Average Costs Per Season/Inflatable – 30 day period
|Hours on Per Day||Watts||4.5||8||12||24|
|Inflatable snow globe/rotating carousel||200||$2.70||$4.80||$7.20||$14.40|
For animated inflatables, it’s harder to give an accurate estimation due to the variation and complexities of the animated inflatables out there. As a general rule of thumb, you’d need to double or triple the estimates above to account for the animated power consumption.
Easy tips to help you save:
- Buy LEDs – LED lights consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last up to 100,000 hours, versus 3,000 hours for an incandescent. Combine this with the durable construction of LEDs, and savings extend beyond electricity. Repeat purchases in LED lights are reduced drastically, multiplying savings year after year.
- Use automatic timers –to control the amount of time you’re running the lights or inflatable’s each day – fewer hours means less energy used.
- Use extension cords – instead of using light strings to add length to your display, utilize extension cords in less visible areas
- Be creative – supplement your holiday displays with ornaments such as wreaths, ribbons and other decorations that don’t consume energy.
LED holiday lights wattage is significantly less than incandescent lights and the bulbs always stay cool to the touch. In addition, LED lights require so little energy that you can plug over 80 sets together end to end without a problem while a comparable set of incandescent lights may only allow you to connect two strands end to end. While LEDs cost more to purchase, they save you more money on your monthly energy bill. If you reuse your holiday lights from year to year, LEDs make a lot of sense.
But whatever your choice is, make sure you follow these holiday lights safety tips:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions
- Inspect each set of lights–old or new–for damage. Return or throw out any set with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
- Replace burned out bulbs promptly with bulbs of the same wattage.
- Make sure outdoor lighting is UL-rated for exterior use. The packaging will note whether the lights can be used indoors, outdoors, or both. Don’t ever use indoor lights outside (using outdoor lights in the house is not a big deal).
- All outdoor electrical decorations should be plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You can buy portable units for outdoor use, or you can have them permanently installed by an electrician.
- Use extension cords properly. Outdoor cords can be used anywhere, but never use indoor extension cords outside. Do not overload extension cords–they can get hot enough to burn.
- Stay away from powerlines or feeder lines (these go from the pole to the house).
- Secure outside lights with insulated holders (never use tacks, staples or nails) or run strands of lights through hooks.
- When you leave or go to bed at night, turn off your lights.
- Never pull on a string of lights, it stresses the cords and can lead to fraying.
- Store lights safely in a sturdy container until next year.
Enjoy the holidays!
Typical holiday decorations examples
(assuming 10 hours per day for 30 day period)
A Small Tree
$1.20 Incandescent / $ 0.15 LED
A Funny Animal Sculpture
$4.92 Incandescent / $ 0.57 LED
A Big Tree
$12.00 Incandescent / $1.44 LED
100 Lights Wreath
$1.89 Incandescent / $ 0.42 LED
A Typical House Like This
$10.78 Incandescent / $1.63 LED
Heavy Use Such As This
$115.26 Incandescent / $15.30 LED
Enthusiastic Display Like This
$310.73 Incandescent / $40.15 LED