How Much Electricity do Christmas Lights Use?

    Decorated Christmas tree next to a fireplace and decorated mantel

    After the rush of the holidays is over, it's as important as ever to save money. We all look for ways to cut back after the Christmas splurges, so finding those little ways to save cash can make all the difference. One thing that often gets overlooked and could be costing you money is your Christmas lights. Many of us are guilty of leaving our lights up longer than we should, but just how much are your holiday lights actually costing you? We’ll give you some insights to help you calculate how much electricity Christmas lights use.

    Holiday Lights and America’s Electricity

    You might be thinking—Christmas lights can’t have that big of an impact on overall energy consumption. But when viewed on a global scale, the total energy consumption of America’s holiday lighting is fairly significant. In a recent article, the Center for Global Development illustrated how the U.S. expends more electricity—a whopping 6.6 billion total kilowatt hours— on just Christmas lights than the whole country of El Salvador uses in an entire year. To put that in context, as explained by the article, that’s enough electricity to power 14 million refrigerators.

    U.S. Christmas light annual energy usage is enough to power 14 million refrigerators

    But you don’t necessarily have to be Scrooge. While Christmas lights use a considerable amount of energy across America, it is possible to cut back on the electricity you use in your own house and contribute to making the holiday season more energy efficient overall.

    Ways to Reduce Your Holiday Lighting Costs

    Like all the other energy-consumption habits, one of the best ways to start saving is to evaluate your current usage. Knowing how much energy you consume is the first step in making choices that will reduce both your impact and your costs.

    Know Your Light Bulbs

    With so many varieties of lights and bulbs available, it’s hard to know the energy and cost benefits of one type over another. The chart below takes a look at the most common types of holiday light bulbs and their average energy consumption:

    Bulb Type Wattage per Bulb Cost of Powering 10, 100-bulb strands (at avg. $0.12/kWh)*
    Incandescent mini light .41 $10.33
    Incandescent C7 (2”) light 5 $126.00
    Incandescent C9 (3”) light 7 $176.40
    LED mini light .07 $1.76
    LED C9 (3”) light .09 $2.27

    *Calculated based on an average 6hrs of use for the 35 days spanning from Thanksgiving through the end of December

    Based on this chart, you can see just how the types of lights you buy will impact your energy use and costs. Though the numbers display cost for just one kind of bulb, chances are that you will use a combination of these to light your house. For example, perhaps you like the look of larger C9 bulbs for the outside, but trim your tree with the mini lights. Thankfully, many manufacturers are creating energy-efficient alternatives to the most popular bulb types. Opting for energy efficient light bulbs—such as the LED versions—will save you money in your energy costs and reduce your consumption.

    While energy-efficient LED strand lights are generally more expensive than strands of the traditional incandescent mini lights, the calculated savings by switching to LEDs can drastically reduce your electricity consumption and save you a little more holiday spending cash.

    In addition to LED options, strands of solar powered Christmas lights—generating their power supply independent from an electric source—are now available at many retailers from which Christmas lights can be purchased.

    Save Energy by Powering Down

    Another way to control the energy your decorations use is to manage the amount of time your Christmas lights are lighted during the holiday season. You can purchase simple timers for your holiday lights that allow you to manually set the amount of time your lights are on, which can be adjusted as the days grow shorter or longer.

    In addition, consider when you put up your outside lights and when you take them down—waiting a week or two before hanging the lights next year and then packing them up right as the the holiday season ends can be a good strategy for taking another small amount off of your energy usage. After all, if the lights aren’t up, you won’t be tempted to leave them on.

    IGS Energy also has tips for saving on your electric bill year round by minimizing the daily energy usage in your home, and offers options for supplying electricity to areas all over the country.

    Check rates in your area today