Holiday Lights Should Bring Cheer, Not High Utility Bills


efficient-holiday-decoratingThe trees are starting to shed their leaves for the winter. Halloween decorations are being replaced with turkeys and the kids are starting their holiday wish lists.

It’s just about time for the holiday decorations and Christmas lights to go up all over southern Colorado.

Twinkle twinkle

Those lights are beautiful and they fill everyone who looks at them with holiday cheer. During long dark December nights, there’s nothing better than a whole block decked in holly and glittering with little bulbs.

Energy use

While they’re beautiful and cheery, they also use a lot of energy.

Someone with two trees and several outdoor lights typically uses about 6,799 watts of electricity during a holiday season if they use incandescent lights. That will cost about $115, according to research from Christmas Light Etc. 

High energy-use time

What’s worse is that holiday lights usually come on at the same time as utilities are working hardest to keep up with electricity demand. The hours between 4:30 and 9 p.m. when families come home from work and school and turn on their lights, televisions and ovens are referred to as peak. It’s when utilities have to produce and pump out the most electricity.

It also happens to be the dark hours of the evening when holiday lights twinkle most relentlessly, adding to your utility’s peak load.

Shoo, energy Scrooge

Just because holiday lights can be costly energy investments doesn’t mean you should shiver in the drab darkness without the holiday cheer the lights bring. It just means you need to be careful and thoughtful about how you use holiday lights. We have a few quick tips to help you cut costs and reduce electricity demand during peak hours.

  • Energy-efficient bulbs. There are countess options on the shelves these days for people who want more energy-efficient holiday lights. Yes, most of them are significantly more expensive than the traditional lights. However, most use LED bulbs, which last years and years and years. Not only will you save on your electricity bill, you also won’t have to toss the string when too many bulbs go out a couple years down the road. And they definitely save you on holiday electric bills. The same setup that costs $115 to run with incandescent bulbs is just a little more than $15 with LED bulbs, according to Christmas Lights Etc.
  • Strategic design. Be selective about where and how you hang holiday lights. If you don’t spend much time in the backyard during the winter, it’s unlikely anyone will see or appreciate holiday lights on the back of your house. Stick to the front. Consider creating a design with your lights that creates interest and uses fewer lights than covering your whole house.
  • Turn them off at night. Few people are out and about looking at holiday lights after 10 p.m. and you’re likely heading to bed. Save yourself from needing an eye mask to sleep while also reducing your winter electric bill by shutting decorative lights off when you go to bed.
  • Use a timer. If you think you will forget to turn off the lights on your Christmas tree or other decorations, hook them up to a timer, so they will turn off automatically.

If you’re looking for more comprehensive ways to reduce your energy consumption, contact the Energy Resource Center. We can do a home energy audit to help you identify ways to reduce energy consumption and costs.

Our services are available for a small fee or free to income-qualified families in El Paso, Jefferson, Denver, Teller, Fremont, Elbert, Douglas, Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Saguache and Rio Grande counties.

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