Holiday Light Savings

By Hannah McKenzie

Holiday Light Savings

Q: Every Christmas, I bleed money from all the gift buying and traveling. I’m wondering if I could save a bit of money by using more energy efficient holiday décor. I love having my home’s interior and exterior decorated to the hilt — Griswold style — so I’m not willing to sacrifice much.

A: The holiday season is filled with great festivities and food, but leaves many families drained of cash in the New Year. There are many opportunities to keep your electric costs low while still being a strong contender in the neighborhood house decorating competition.

Obviously, the cheapest choice is to roll old school and use decorations that don’t require electricity. Wreaths on doors and windows, garland, ribbon around your tree, and poinsettias all offer a festive feel without using electricity.

If you can’t imagine a Christmas without lights or a jumbo inflated Santa, making wise choices can minimize your energy use. 

Choose decorations wisely.

For light strings, including icicles, nets, and ropes, the choice is easy. Energy Star® certified decorative light strings are light-emitting diodes (LED) that use at least 75 percent less energy than standard light strings. However, the savings may be massively more.

When considering other illuminated, inflated or projecting décor, look at the wattage. A quick calculation (see table for an example) will reveal the cost to keep Santa and his reindeer lit all night, and the polar bear inflated 24/7. A trip to the store may be required to scrutinize the box or product plug since wattage is not often included in online product specifications for outdoor décor.

Limit the hours of lighting.

West of Charlotte, McAdenville, also known as “Christmas Town USA” (mcadenville-christmastown.com), is an incredible sight to behold. Throughout the town, its homes, offices, lake and greenery are illuminated from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 5:30 to 11 p.m. on weekends (December 1-26). Consider following their example and limiting the hours your home is illuminated. Your wallet (and your neighbors) will be grateful.

There are numerous options for controlling electric holiday décor, including timers, remotes and smart plugs. What works best for you depends on your preferences. A simple timer set for certain hours is basic, yet reliable technology. Some folks love being able to control their lights and monitor energy use with a smartphone app, so purchasing a few smart plugs such as the TP-Link or Belkin WeMo® will fit the bill.

Limit the number of days.

After spending countless hours planning and decorating your home for Christmas, it is hard to be motivated to turn off the twinkle lights and pack everything away. On the upside, fewer days of electric décor means less energy used, so consider limiting holiday lights to the month of December.

I look forward to admiring all the beautifully lit homes in N.C. as I travel to visit my Cabarrus County family this holiday season.

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About the Author

Hannah McKenzie is a residential building science consultant at Advanced Energy in Raleigh who specializes in working with nonprofit developers like Habitat for Humanity to make new affordable housing energy efficient.

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