Christmas Trees Use Energy, Too!

Holiday celebrations–for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and other holidays as well–often involve decorating with lights. Lights are easy to set up and beautiful to look at, either inside or outside the home. Yet, how many of us consider the extra energy use and cost that these lights will require? The trick to holding holiday electricity costs down is making energy efficient lighting choices. Depending on the type and number of lights that you use, and how long you keep them on, the cost of powering your holiday lights can range from a few cents to over fifty dollars per season. Here are a few energy saving tips that may help your parents cut down on their electricity bills this season:

The type of lights you choose is very important! As a general rule, bigger bulbs use more electricity. For every hour they are turned on, the big (C-7) bulbs use between 4 and 10 watt-hours per bulb. This is at least 10 times the electricity used in an hour by 0.4 watt mini-light bulbs. The new Light Emitting Diode (LED) holiday lights are the biggest energy savers, drawing only a tenth as much electricity as mini-lights, at 0.04 watts per bulb! Of course, LED lights are much more expensive than mini-lights and the savings on your energy bill may not make up for the added cost. Besides saving energy, LED lights have some other advantages that may make their added cost seem worth it. When one bulb on a string of LED lights goes bad, the rest of the light string will still work. So there is no searching for that one bad light keeping the rest of the string from operating! Plus, LED bulbs should last at least 5 years, and they never get hot. If you like big light displays, you can connect up to 25 strings of LED lights together without overloading a typical household circuit.

More lights require more energy. It only makes sense that your electricity use will go up as you add more strings of lights. Keep in mind that not all light strings are the same. Big (C-7) bulbs come in strings of 25 while mini-lights may have 35 to 200 bulbs per string, and LED lights may have 35 to 100 lights per string. The popular, icicle style light strings use mini-lights but because of their shape, usually require many more strings to cover the same distance as a regular string of mini-lights. The number of light strings used for decorating is a matter of taste. You can compare the amount of electricity that will be used by a string of each type of lights in an hour, by multiplying the number of watts per bulb by the number of bulbs per string:

A string of C-7 bulbs: 4 watts per bulb x 25 bulbs per string = 100 watts per hour
A string of mini-lights: 0.4 watts per bulb x 100 bulbs per string = 40 watts per hour
A string of LED lights: 0.04 watts per bulb x 100 bulbs per string = 4 watts per hour

The longer your lights are on, the more energy they use. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that lights that are left on all night (maybe 12 hours) will use 3 times as much electricity as lights that are on for only 4 hours at night. Using a timer on your tree and outdoor display is a great way to keep from forgetting to turn your lights off!

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