For many home owners, decorating for the holidays is a chance to share holiday joy with their neighbors, friends, and anyone else who drives by—or flies over in an airplane. But it also can be quite a costly undertaking. Safety concerns notwithstanding, holiday lights are notorious power leeches that take a toll on your electric bill.
To demonstrate, HouseLogic used the average price per kWh in each home’s region to roughly calculate the dollar damage sustained by some of the more extravagant Christmas light displays (assuming each bulb was the average 5 watt C7 bulb). And just for fun, we did rough estimates of energy bill savings if all the lights were LEDs. While LEDs are more expensive than traditional bulbs to purchase, they use up to 90% less energy and last a lot longer.
Noel, times a million
In Delaware, 1,000,000 twinkling lights signal the start of the holiday season. You read that right—one million! The Faucher family has been slowing traffic to a crawl with their home Christmas display for about 25 years with this ambitious and breathtaking endeavor.
- Estimated cost: $686/hour; keeping them lit for 4 hours a night over 30 days (about a month) adds up to $82,320.
- Estimated cost using only LEDs: $89/hour; $10,680/month
- Possible electric bill savings: $597/hour; $71,640/month.
A wired wonderland
This home located on Balboa Island in the middle of Newport Harbor, Calif., draws thousands of viewers from all over every year—including visitors who travel by boat! An electronically bedazzled feast for the eyes, the Zimmerman house uses 25,000 lights (digitally synchronized to Christmas songs), to bring its glowing treasures to life—including blinking candy canes, bells, snowflakes, and a 25-foot tree.
- Estimated cost (lights only): $19/hour; keeping them lit for 4 hours a night over 30 days adds up to $2,280/month.
- Estimated cost using only LEDs: $2.50/hour; $300/month.
- Possible electric bill savings: $16.50/hour; $1,980/month.
Next stop: Santa’s Toy Shop
For nearly 40 years, Dick Norton and his family in Burbank, Calif., have pulled out all the stops to create this winter wonderland, complete with a combination of digital displays and analog props, including a North Pole Express train that emits steam, an animated merry-go-round, Santa’s Toy Shop, and 10,000 lights. The display is a thing of wonder to be sure, but paying for the juice to run the elaborate attraction — even with the inclusion of a few LEDs — probably isn’t as wonderful.
- Estimated cost (lights only): $7.50/hour; keeping them lit for 4 hours a night over 30 days adds up to $900/month.
- Estimated cost using only LEDs: $1/hour; $120/month.
- Possible electric bill savings: $6.50/hour; $780/month.
40,000 and counting
The Lagerstrom family’s obsession with Christmas lights started back in 2002 with 4,000 lights. This year they plan 45,000. And the Lagerstroms, from Canada’s British Columbia, don’t plan to stop there, with an ultimate goal of 250,000 lights. They also are in the process of switching to LEDs, which will lower their costs as we estimate here.
- Estimated cost (this year, if all incandescent): $17/hour; 4 hours a night for 30 days comes out to $2,040.
- Estimated cost using all LEDs: $2/hour or $240 for the month.
- Possible electric bill savings: $15/hour or $1,800 for the month.
The Holdman family display in Pleasant Grove, Utah, uses about 150,000 lights and is 100% wind powered. But if you expect to see a giant wind turbine in their front yard, look again. The Holdmans use renewable energy credits (RECs), which put power back on the grid from a wind energy facility.
Another green solution is Christmas light timers. Having an automatic shut-off time can prolong the lifespan of your lights, and ensure that you don’t over-expend energy.
Solar Christmas lights are another way to go. They rely on a solar panel to absorb sunlight during the day. When the sun goes down, the lights automatically come on.