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Blog Dec 12, 2018

How Much Electricity do Christmas Lights Use

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christmas light

The holiday season is considered by many to be the most joyous time of the year as the light fall of snow, cozy evenings by the fireplace, and age-old musical arrangements are enough to stir within us nostalgic memories of years passed. And along with those other markers of Christmas are the magical lights that line so many walkways and homes all around.Their red, green, and white glow are enough to capture the imagination and fill hearts with the Christmas spirit, but often one of the most important parts about the lights gets glanced over. For all of their beauty, Christmas lights are still just electrical devices that consume a considerable amount of energy to create the traditional holiday atmosphere. Looking at them from this perspective, the question that begs to be answered is how much electricity do Christmas lights use?

christmas lights

Christmas Light Stats

  • U.S. Christmas lights consume more electricity than entire countries do in a year
  • The state of Texas alone uses nearly the same amount of electricity over the holiday season as the country of Indonesia uses annually
  • The U.S. uses 6.63 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year on holiday lights
  • The amount of electricity used annually to power Christmas lights could run 14 million refrigerators
  • The glow of holiday lights in the U.S. can, in some cases, be seen from space

How To Calculate The Energy Cost Of Christmas Lights

While the amount of energy consumed during the holidays nationwide is high, the electricity used in individual homes may not follow that trend. There exist a number of methods to keep costs down, but recognizing that as a need requires individuals to first determine how much powering their lights is costing them. In calculating the expense of Christmas lights, several factors such as as home size, number of lights, and duration of illumination need to be taken into consideration before a dollar value can be assigned.

To begin determining the cost of your Christmas lights, you’ll first need to figure out the amount of watts used by your decorations. Once you have that information, you’ll have to convert the number of watts used into kilowatt-hours. To do this, divide the watts used by 1,000. After that, you will need to multiply the kilowatt-hours by the hours you leave the lights on each day, then by the number of days you leave the lights on during the month, then multiply that number by your monthly electricity rate. If you’re using several light strands that are the same size, you’ll only have to determine the cost of one initially, then you can multiply your final figure by the number of strands you use to get your final expense.

christmas lights electricity

To better illustrate this point, imagine you have 4 strands of lights that use 25 watts of electricity. You light them for 3 hours a day for 35 days total and your rate is 12.3 cents. You would calculate your expense as follows:

  • 25 watts used/1,000 = 0.025 kilowatt-hours
  • 0.025 kilowatt-hours x 3 hours illuminated = 0.075
  • 0.075 x 35 days used = 2.625
  • 2.625 x 12.3 cents = 32.3 cents
  • 32.3 cents x 4 strands = $1.29 each month

Another factor that contributes to the cost of electricity is the type of lights that are used. Today, the two main kinds of Christmas lights are incandescents and light-emitting diodes(LEDs). These varieties differ in a number of regards including the upfront cost, the lifespan, and most significantly, the energy-efficiency.   

Different Types Of Lights

christmas lights power

Incandescents

For years incandescent Christmas lights have been the standard in holiday lighting as their various sizes and hues allow them to provide vibrant color to long strings that can be used both within the house and outside as well.

Pros Cons
  • Lower upfront cost
  • Comes in numerous lighting styles
  • Have a purer color tone and glow
  • Easy installation
  • Emits around 90% of energy as heat
  • Becomes hot to the touch
  • Shorter lifespan than other lights
  • Ends its lifetime by burning out
christmas lights use

LEDs

Growing in popularity recently has been LED Christmas lights. Unlike incandescents that use the heating of their filament to provide light, LEDs utilize conductors that allow them to light up without generating heat. As a result, they do not burn out.

Pros Cons
  • Last around 25 times longer than incandescents
  • Don’t emit heat so they are safe to the touch
  • Energy-efficient allowing money to be saved
  • Safer alternative to incandescent lights
  • Higher upfront cost
  • It can be difficult to replace broken lights
  • Color emitted is not always standard quality
  • Often offers fewer lights per strand

Using Lights Around The House

electric christmas lights

Christmas Tree

The amount of electricity used to light a Christmas tree mainly varies based on its size and the type of lights used. The average recommendation is to utilize 100 lights for roughly each foot-and-a-half of tree, though trees may be decorated with more based on individual preference. Holding to the national average electricity rate of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour and the 40 watts of electricity used in a 100-light string of incandescent lights, the amount of energy needed to keep a tree on for 3 hours is as follows:

Daily Christmas Tree Costs with Incandescent Lights

Tree Height(in feet) 2-4 5-7 8-10
Number of Lights 133-267 333-467 533-667
Watts Used 53.2-106.8 133.2-186.8 213.2-266.8
Electricity Cost(in cents) 1.9-3.8 4.8-6.7 7.7-9.6

Often LED Christmas decorations have fewer lights on their string than incandescents. Assuming 70 lights that use 4.8 watts are placed along every one-and-a-half-feet of tree and that all other information is the same, the daily cost would be:

Daily Christmas Tree Costs with LED Lights

Tree Height(in feet) 2-4 5-7 8-10
Number of Lights 96-192 240-336 384-480
Watts Used 6.6-13.2 16.5-23.0 26.3-32.9
Electricity Cost(in cents) 0.2-0.5 0.6-0.8 0.9-1.2

Even in the event that you were to use the same amount of LEDs as incandescents and compare their prices, the cost for operating LEDs would still be much lower and the amount of energy used would also be considerably less.

how much do christmas lights

Roof

In terms of decorating the exterior of the home with Christmas lights, many people are fond of framing their roofs with lights. In order to achieve the effect, most often 8-10 light strands are used and usually these displays will stay on for a longer period than the Christmas tree. Using the national average electricity rate and assuming that these lights will stay on for four hours every night, this is the daily cost breakdown:

Daily Christmas Light Roof Cost with Incandescents

Light Strands Used 8 9 10
Number of Lights 800 900 1,000
Watts Used 320 360 400
Electricity Cost(in cents) 15.4 17.3 19.2

Once again, holding all information the same but changing the lights to the 70 bulb LEDs, the cost would be:

Daily Christmas Light Roof Cost with LED Lights

Light Strands Used 8 9 10
Number of Lights 800 900 1,000
Watts Used 54.9 61.7 68.6
Electricity Cost(in cents) 2.6 3.0 3.3

There are ways to reduce this expense, starting with limiting the amount of lights hung on the roof. You can also consider leaving decorations powered on for less time.

Yard

Just like with the roof, covering the yard with decorations is also a popular practice in the U.S. Everything from adorning light poles, porches, and garages with hanging icicles and light up reindeer are done, but this comes at a cost. Holding that they are left illuminated for 4 hours each day for the national average electricity rate, their costs would be:

Type of Decoration Outdoor Decoration Wreath Illuminated Garland
Watts Used 82 21 42
Cost(in cents) 3.9 1.0 2.0

Those same decorations come in LED varieties and require a considerably smaller amount of electricity, which also enables a lower cost:

Type of Decoration Outdoor Decoration Wreath Illuminated Garland
Watts Used 19 4 4
Cost(in cents) 0.9 0.2 0.2

Just as with the roof and the yard, LEDs are able to outperform incandescents bulbs and given their greater energy-efficiency and extended lifetime, their benefits can be reaped for years following their purchase.

So Incandescents or LEDs?

The cheery glow of Christmas lights is something people all over await eagerly each year. And as the country and the world make a greater push towards energy-efficiency, for those still left wondering how much electricity Christmas lights use, know that the answer to that question can vary. As a whole, traditional incandescents should be gradually phased out as the up and coming LED Christmas lights enable both short-term and the long-run benefits for less energy and money. As you go about pulling out your old Christmas lights, ask yourself if your decorations are giving you what you want for what you’re putting in.

Payless Power is a family-owned business, a quality that allows us to meet the needs of our customers with unprecedented success. No matter our customer’s credit history or income level, we strive to provide service to all. And whether you’re trying to reduce the amount of energy you use on your Christmas lights or simply find new ways to save on electricity, we offer a number of great plans that you can sign up for today.

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