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Lighting the Holidays: An Energy Cost Comparison

Holiday lights outdoorsHoliday lights are one of the most visible aspects of the season. Have you ever wondered how much that colorful display adds to your energy bill each year? There are a number of lighting technologies are available. Comparing their operating costs can help you decide which option is best for decorating your home.

Holiday lighting options

Three lighting types that are commonly used in holiday displays include C-bulbs, miniature lights and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

  • C-bulbs. These traditional incandescent bulbs are bright and highly visible. C7 and C9 types are available. C9 bulbs are larger and draw slightly more power.
  • Miniature (mini) lights. Mini lights use far less energy than C-bulbs and have become very popular. The main advantages of mini lights are their low energy use and low cost, although they are not very durable.
  • LEDs. LEDs are long lasting and highly energy efficient. Made from solid materials, these bulbs are safer and more durable than C-bulbs and miniature lights. Despite their advantages, LED lights are more expensive to purchase, although their price has come down in recent years.

Comparing energy costs

How much does each lighting option cost to operate? The following table compares the power draw (in wattage) and the monthly operating cost of a typical display. These calculations are based on an average running time of five hours per day at an electric rate of 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). 

Holiday Lighting Energy Costs
Type Wattage Monthly Operating Costs*
C7 and C9 5 to 7 $23 to $31
Mini Lights 0.4 $7
LEDs 0.04 72 cents
* For a lighting display using 10 strings of bulbs operating five hours per day at an electric rate of 12 cents per kWh 

Due to their durability and lower operating costs, LEDs are quickly becoming the decorating option of choice in homes across the country.

Remember that conservation is still the best option for minimizing energy costs. Turn off holiday lights late at night and when you are away from home. An automatic timer can optimize savings while adding convenience. With a little planning, you can have a dazzling display that's barely visible on your energy bill.

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