I told my children we would use fewer holiday lights to save energy, but they threw a fit. Do you have tips for decorating efficiently?—Becky B.
It is definitely fun to decorate during the holiday season, but it can increase your electric bill more than most people realize. Including the cost of bulbs, the five-year cost (typical life of many bulbs) for using standard colored bulbs during the holidays can be up to $150.
Obviously, the best alternative to consuming all this energy is using nonelectric decorations or fewer lights. It would help to talk with your children, and explain to them the long-term benefits of energy conservation. You might be surprised by how receptive they are.
When you compare standard holiday colored lights at the store, you will see designations such as C9, C7, and mini-bulbs. C9 bulbs are the largest, and each bulb can use up to 10 watts of electricity. C7 bulbs are slightly smaller and typically use about five watts per bulb. The mini-bulbs use just a fraction of a watt, but are not nearly as bright.
The newest technology in energy-efficient lighting is an LED (light emitting diode). This is a solid-state device that does not create light by heating an element in the bulb. Most of the electricity LEDs use ends up as light, instead of heat, as with standard incandescent bulbs. The red numerals on a digital clock use efficient LED technology.
To create efficient, larger, colored holiday bulbs, several LEDs are mounted inside one bulb. This bulb has a standard base to screw into your existing fixtures. A colored C7 bulb with three LEDs inside will be as bright as a standard C7 bulb, but uses only 0.15 watts of electricity.
These colored C7 LED bulbs have the same shape as regular holiday lights. In addition to the electricity savings, the colored shell is made of durable plastic instead of glass. Also, LED lights do not get hot, so are safer around children and on a dry tree.
The only drawback to these colored LED bulbs is the initial higher cost. With a life of more than 60,000 hours, you will likely never have to replace them in your lifetime. Considering this long life and the electricity savings, they should pay back the higher initial cost.
If you already have your larger bulbs and do not want to purchase new LED ones right now, consider installing fiber-optic converters. These snap over the bulbs and have many protruding fibers extending out from the bulbs. These fibers carry the light to the ends and create a large bright cluster around each bulb.
The best energy-efficiency tip is to use fewer bulbs, and light them for a shorter time period each night. Perhaps you can negotiate with your children for a two- or three-hour period for the lights to be on each night. Plug them into a timer so you do not have to remember to turn them off. Also, check the wattage rating of the timer so you do not exceed it.
Use as many reflective ornaments as possible to multiply the effect of fewer lights. Decorating around mirrors is an effective method to accomplish this. Small and large mirrored globe ornaments hanging near lights on a tree are particularly effective. If you make ornaments yourself, use reflective metallic threads available at most craft shops.
The following companies offer efficient holiday decorations: American Lighting, (800) 880-1130, www.americanlighting.com; Bronners, (800) 361-6736, www.bronners.net; Holiday Creations, (303) 694-1121, www.holidaycreations.com; Kreinik Mfg., (800) 537-2166, www.kreinik.com; and Miles Kimball, (800) 546-2255, www.mileskimball.com.