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Last updated: 24 April 2024

The True Cost of Christmas Lights and Your Electric Bill

Christmas lights decoration

As the festive season approaches, homes around the UK are illuminated with twinkling Christmas lights, creating a magical ambience. However, amidst this enchanting spectacle, a hidden cost often goes overlooked - the energy consumed by these mesmerising festive lights. With the current spike in energy prices, the financial implications of such usage have become a topic of concern. 

However, beneath the dazzling display lies a hidden cost many of us are unaware of. We often overlook one question - how much do our Christmas lights contribute to our energy bill? 

It is crucial to understand the hidden costs associated with our festive decorations.

Statistics and Facts:

  1. An average set of indoor Christmas tree lights, usually 200, costs around £0.12 to run per hour.
  2. Most people use two strings of lights for their Christmas tree, adding up to 80 watts of energy.
  3. Keeping your lights on for 6 hours a day for the whole festive period will cost you £6.36.
  4. Gas and electricity prices rose at 1.7% and 6.7%, respectively, in the year to September 2023.
  5. One 20-ft string of 100 incandescent bulbs uses 40W of electricity, assuming the lights are on for six hours daily. This means an average household will use 65 kWh of electricity in December for their lights.
  6. LED lights consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs.

The tradition of Christmas lights

Christmas lights have a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century when people used candles to decorate Christmas trees. Today, they add a magical touch to our homes and streets, creating a festive atmosphere that brings joy to both young and old.

Today, these lights have become an integral part of our festive celebrations, adorning our homes, streets, and public spaces. Despite their beauty, these twinkling lights can significantly impact our energy consumption.

Energy Impact of Christmas lights

Understanding the hidden energy costs of Christmas lights

The energy usage of Christmas lights may come as a shocking surprise. According to recent studies, the energy consumption of an average string of Christmas lights can be equivalent to running a refrigerator for hours on end. This means that while we bask in the glow of our decorations, we are also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and increasing our carbon footprint.

Traditional Christmas lights can consume a significant amount of energy. For instance, a 20-ft string of 100 incandescent bulbs uses 40W of electricity. If these lights are on for six hours a day, an average household will use 65 kWh of electricity in December for their lights. With current energy prices, keeping your lights on six hours a day for the entire festive period will cost you £6.36. 

This high energy consumption lies in the bulbs used in traditional incandescent Christmas lights. These bulbs are not energy-efficient and waste a significant amount of electricity in the form of heat. The more lights you have and the longer they remain on, the more energy is consumed. This impacts the environment and puts a strain on your electricity bill.

Let's consider a typical set of incandescent Christmas lights to put things into perspective. An average string of 100 traditional bulbs consumes around 40 watts per hour. If you keep these lights on for 5 hours a day throughout the holiday season, you will consume 200 watt-hours of electricity daily. Multiply that by 30 days, and you've consumed 6,000 or 6 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy. Considering the average cost of electricity, this can significantly impact your monthly bill.

We created a table summarising the results based on the number of light strings and the light wattage to estimate the energy usage for different housing styles. For example:

Housing StyleNumber of Light StringsWattage per StringDaily Energy Consumption (kWh)Daily Cost
Small House5400.24£6.57
Medium House10400.48£13.14
Large House15400.72£19.71

Environmental impact of Christmas lights

The environmental impact of Christmas lights extends beyond just energy consumption. The production and disposal of these lights also contribute to pollution and waste. Traditional incandescent bulbs contain small amounts of toxic materials such as mercury, which can harm human health and the environment if not disposed of properly.

The energy used to power Christmas lights also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, for example, the total energy consumption to power Christmas lights in December is 3.5 billion kWh, which emits 3 billion pounds of CO2

This is because the energy used to power Christmas lights is often generated by burning fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gases and exacerbates climate change. As the demand for electricity increases during the holiday season, power plants may need to ramp up their production, further contributing to environmental degradation.

It is crucial to recognise that our holiday traditions can have unintended consequences on the planet. By understanding the environmental impact of Christmas lights, we can make informed choices and take steps towards a more sustainable celebration.

Energy-saving tips for Christmas lights

But fear not! There are ways to enjoy the festive spirit while minimising your energy usage. By adopting energy-saving practices, you can reduce your carbon footprint and lower your electricity bill. 

One way to reduce the energy consumption of Christmas lights is by switching to LED lights. LEDs consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours, versus 3,000 hours for an incandescent. If you replace all the bulbs in your home with LED lights, you could save £60 a year on your electricity bill. 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Switch to LED lights: LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights are highly energy-efficient and consume significantly less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. They also last much longer, saving you money in the long run. Switch to LED lights and enjoy the same festive ambience with less energy consumption.
    1. Use timers: Instead of leaving your Christmas lights on all day and night, consider using timers to control when they are illuminated. By setting specific hours for your lights to be on, you can avoid unnecessary energy wastage and still enjoy the beautiful glow during the evening hours when they are most visible.
      1. Opt for solar-powered lights. Solar-powered Christmas lights harness the sun's power during the day to illuminate your decorations at night. They are eco-friendly and eliminate the need for electricity. Place the solar panel in a sunny spot and let nature do the rest.

        Considering these benefits, it's clear that LED lights are the superior choice for energy efficiency and sustainability. 

        How to calculate the energy usage of your Christmas lights

        If you're curious about the energy consumption of your Christmas lights, you can easily calculate it using a simple formula. All you need to know is the wattage of your lights and the number of hours they are on each day. This guide will help you calculate the energy usage of Christmas lights for different housing styles in the UK, including detached, semi-detached, terraced, and apartment/flats.

        Follow these steps to estimate your energy usage:

        1. Identify the Wattage of Your Christmas Lights: The energy consumption of Christmas lights depends on their wattage. For instance, the average Christmas light uses around 25 watts per strand, with about 100 lights per strand. 
          1. Determine the Hours of Usage: Estimate the hours your lights are on each day. This could be 5 hours, 8 hours, or any other duration. On average, outdoor Christmas lights in the UK are used for 6 hours a night. 
            1. Calculate the Daily Energy Consumption: Multiply the wattage of the lights by the hours of usage to get the daily energy consumption in watt-hours (Wh). For example, if you have a strand of 100 lights with a total wattage of 25 watts and use them for 6 hours, the daily energy consumption would be 25 watts * 6 hours = 150 Wh.
              1. Convert to Kilowatt-hours (kWh): Since electricity is typically billed in kWh, convert the daily energy consumption from Wh to kWh by dividing by 1000. So, 150 Wh = 0.15 kWh.
                1. Calculate the Cost: Multiply the daily energy consumption in kWh by the cost per kWh. As of October 2023, the average unit price is 27.35p per kWh. The daily cost for one strand of lights would be 0.15 kWh * 27.35p = 4.1p.
                  1. Estimate the Monthly Cost: Multiply the daily cost by the days you plan to use the lights. If you plan to use the lights for the entire month of December (31 days), the cost would be £4.1 * 31 = £1.27.

                    Housing Styles and Energy Consumption

                    The energy consumption of Christmas lights can vary significantly depending on the size and style of your home. Here's a rough estimate for different housing styles, assuming that each style uses a different number of light strands:

                    Housing StyleNumber of Light StrandsEstimated Cost
                    Detached20£25.40
                    Semi-detached15£19.05
                    Terraced10£12.70
                    Apartment/Flat5£6.35

                    By performing this calculation, you can better understand your energy consumption and make more informed decisions about your holiday lighting choices.

                    Energy-efficient alternatives to traditional Christmas lights

                    Several options exist if you're looking for energy-efficient alternatives to traditional Christmas lights. These alternatives reduce energy consumption and offer unique and creative ways to decorate your home. 

                    Here are some popular choices:

                    1. Fibre optic lights: Fiber optic lights use optical fibres to transmit light, resulting in a mesmerising and energy-efficient display. These lights consume minimal energy and are available in various colours and patterns. You can use them to create stunning centrepieces, garlands, or a whole tree.
                      1. Projection lights: Projection lights are a modern and energy-efficient way to illuminate your home. These devices project colourful images or patterns onto your house's or interior surfaces. With many designs, projection lights offer a hassle-free and visually striking alternative to traditional string lights.
                        1. Battery-powered lights: Battery-powered lights provide flexibility and convenience without needing electricity. These lights are available in various forms, including fairy lights, string lights, and mini LED candles. They are perfect for more miniature decorations or areas with limited access to power outlets.
                          1. DIY recycled decorations: Get crafty and create eco-friendly decorations using recycled materials. The possibilities are endless, from repurposed glass bottles with fairy lights to paper snowflakes made from old magazines. Therefore, saving energy will reduce waste and add a personal touch to your holiday decor.

                            Consequently, venturing into these energy-efficient alternatives will create a festive ambience and significantly reduce your environmental footprint.

                            The future of energy-efficient Christmas lights

                            As technology advances and environmental concerns grow, the future of energy-efficient Christmas lights looks promising. Researchers and manufacturers are continuously developing innovative solutions to improve energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of holiday lighting.

                            One exciting development is the integration of intelligent technology into Christmas lights. Smart lights can be controlled remotely through a smartphone or voice command, allowing you to customise your decorations' colours, patterns, and timing. These lights often use LED technology and have built-in energy-saving features like timers and motion sensors to optimise energy consumption.

                            Additionally, solar power and battery technology advancements offer opportunities for more sustainable Christmas lights. Solar-powered lights are becoming increasingly efficient and affordable, allowing clean, renewable energy to power our holiday decorations. These battery technology advancements also enable longer-lasting battery-powered lights by reducing the need for frequent battery changes and minimising waste.

                            As we look to the future, it's clear that energy-efficient Christmas lights will continue to evolve, providing us with more sustainable and creative ways to celebrate the holiday season.

                            Making sustainable choices for your holiday decorations

                            This holiday season, let's make a conscious effort to illuminate our homes with sustainability in mind. By being mindful of the hidden energy cost of Christmas lights, we can help create a brighter, greener future for all.

                            Understanding the energy consumption and environmental impact of Christmas lights is the first step towards sustainable choices. We can significantly reduce our energy usage and carbon footprint by switching to LED lights, using timers, and exploring alternative options. Educating ourselves about government regulations and initiatives that promote energy efficiency is also essential.

                            Embracing energy-efficient Christmas lights helps make our planet more sustainable, and it can inspire others to do the same. Let's make this holiday season one of joy, warmth, and environmental responsibility.

                            Together, we can light the world with a sustainable and festive glow.

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