Brighten your holidays and brighten your light bill
For some folks, bigger certainly seems better when it comes to holiday decorating. In many communities, residents know the homes where the families go all out with lights and glitz—producing an extravaganza of holiday bling.
In energy terms, however, big displays come with a cost. For those who want Christmas cheer without a big January bill, consider some ways to decorate in the spirit of the season while conserving energy as well.
A good starting spot: take a look at the lights on the tree. Many older strings of lights have incandescent bulbs. These typically cost less to purchase than LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, but LEDs are roughly 80 percent to 90 percent more energy efficient. LED lights use less wattage, give brighter light, and generally last significantly longer.
To determine the cost of powering your holiday lights, calculate how many strings of lights you use and their wattage, then multiply by the number of hours you plan to leave the lights burning and the cost you pay per kilowatt-hour. While it may take some years to recoup the extra up-front cost of LEDs, the savings can be measured by you and your electric co-op, both through lower operating costs and in environmental impact because of less energy use.
Rather than keeping the tree lights burning nonstop during December, use timers to turn the lights on when it gets dark and then off at bedtime.
Yes, you can use solar lighting in the winter
For outdoor lighting displays, check out the possibility of solar-powered Christmas lights. Solar lights are typically powered by a panel with a rechargeable battery, which is connected by a cord to each string and stuck into the ground. Most will turn on automatically when it gets dark, and some may not need direct sun to charge—the light from a cloudy day may be sufficient.
An advantage: solar-powered lights don’t need to connect by extension cords to a power outlet—a nice perk if that tree you want to light up is halfway across the lawn. A disadvantage: you may not be able to connect a series of solar-powered light strings together.
Try a little off-the-grid celebrating
Perhaps the easiest holiday energy-saving tip of all is to bear in mind that lights aren’t the only way to evoke that festive feeling. Try a garland of fresh pine greenery, a scented candle, or a bright poinsettia. Sing some favorite carols and bake cookies together. Then go for a walk to admire the glow of the neighbors’ lights, and—even better—the moon and the stars in the sky.