Calculating Your Christmas Energy Costs

What Are the Energy Costs of Holiday Lights?

The holiday season is a time of joy, cheer, togetherness, … and big spending. You can expect to shell out some money for gifts, food, travel, and family get-togethers. However, when you’re planning your holiday budget, don’t forget to include electricity. Those Christmas lights need power and can result in a higher energy bill at the end of the month. By using our simple formula, you can estimate the energy cost of all that holiday cheer.

The Cost of Christmas Lights

What’s the energy cost of all those holiday lights? We’ll need to do some math to figure it out. Just plug your own numbers into our simple cost-calculating formula.

Step 1: Watts

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of electricity as of August 2018 was 13.3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). To figure out your kilowatt-hours, first, find the wattage for each of your string of lights you plan to use and multiply that number by 0.001.watts × 0.001 = kWh

Step 2: kWh per Day

Figure out your kilowatt-hours per day by multiplying your kWh with the number of hours per day you plan to run your lights.

kWh × hours per day = kWh per day

Step 3: kWh per Season

To calculate your kilowatt-hours per season, simply multiply your kilowatts per day by the number of days you plan to use your lights this season.

kWh per day × number of days = kWh per season

Step 4: Total Cost

Finally, multiply your kilowatts per season by the average cost per kilowatt-hour (0.133) or your specific cost per kilowatt-hour to find out your total cost of running your holiday lights this season.

kWh per season × 0.133 = total cost

Holiday Decorator Profiles

Confused? That’s all right. You can still get a rough idea of how much you can expect to spend on electricity this season. Just look at the three holiday decorator profiles we’ve created below and pick the one that sounds most like you.

Note: These profiles include figures for both LED and incandescent lights. For the purpose of these examples, we’re assuming 100 bulbs per string of incandescent lights and 70 bulbs per string of LED lights.

Holiday Decorator Type 1: Keeping It Simple

If you just put up some tasteful white lights and maybe a light-up wreath, you’re probably a holiday decorator type 1. You’re not hanging anything too big or fancy. It’s just enough to show your holiday spirit.

Incandescent Bulbs LED Bulbs
10 basic strings of lights for trees, roof, etc. ≈ 408 watts ≈ 48 watts
× .001 .408 kWh .048 kWh
× 6 hours 2.448 kWh per day .088 kWh per day
× 30 days 73.44 kWh per season 8.64 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season (rounded up) $9.77 $1.15


Holiday Decorator Type 2: Feeling Festive

The holiday decorator type 2 is a little more enthusiastic about their lights. You don’t go too nuts, but you put in some real effort. Maybe you hired someone to strategically line the the house or wind string lights. People turn their heads when they drive by your house.

Incandescent Bulbs LED Bulbs
20 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc. 816 basic watts + 3,500 C9 watts≈ 4,316 watts 96 basic watts + 480 C9 watts≈ 576 watts
500 feet of C9 string for the roof and/or yard
× .001 4.316 kWh .576 kWh
6 hours 25.896 kWh per day 3.456 kWh per day
× 30 days 776.88 kWh per season 103.68 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season (rounded up) $103.33 $13.79


Holiday Decorator Type 3: Winter Wonderland

The holiday decorator type 3 loves Christmas more than anything and goes all out every year. There may even be a little holiday competition driving these decorators to top last year’s display. Traffic slows to a crawl for several blocks just so people can appreciate your blindingly brilliant house. There is a good chance your holiday lights can be seen from space.

Incandescent Bulbs LED Bulbs
50 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc. 2,040 basic watts + 9,100 C9 watts + 6506 icicle watts≈ 17,646 watts 240 basic watts + 1,248 C9 watts + 458 icicle watts≈ 1,946
1,300 feet of C9 string for the roof and/or yard
95 icicle lights
× .001 17.646 kWh 1.946 kWh
× 6 hours 105.876 kWh per day 11.676 kWh per day
× 30 days 3,176.28 kWh per season 350.28 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season(rounded up) $422.45 $46.59


Save on Your Energy Costs This Holiday Season

As the above examples show, LED lights are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. LEDs may cost more up front, but they save you big money in the long term. They’re also much more durable. In fact, LEDs last tens of thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs, so you can use them year after year. You might even pass these lights down to your grandkids someday.

There are other ways to save on your electric bill for the holidays. Use timers to avoid accidentally leaving your lights on all day. Instead of connecting multiple strings of lights together, use extension cords in less-visible areas to help you get more mileage out of your display.

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