As I brought our Christmas lights and ornaments down from the attic today in preparation for decorating the tree, I couldn't help but wonder how much electricity I was going to use on holiday lighting this season.
Well, unless you're Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and you have your whole house so heavily festooned with lights that you threaten the power supply of the Chicago metropolitan area, you're not going to spend all that much.
We took our our handy Kill-a-Watt electricity measuring device and came up with a few calculations for my table of electrical costs that you can use to determine how much you'll be spending this season.
The bottom line for our family: The electricity cost for four strings of mini lights for the tree, nine window candles and two strings of medium-size outdoor lights came to $20. Not bad for a little Christmas cheer. All calculations are based on operating the lights for eight hours a day for a month.
If that cost seems high, you can cut your expenses drastically by using the new LED (or light-emitting-diode) lights. They're based on a totally new technology for lighting and use only a fraction of the electricity.
These lights have no glowing electrical filament inside. Instead, little solid-state electronic chips convert electricity to light. The colors from these tiny chips is rich, but flat-looking. They don't have the usual "twinkle" of the standard mini lights. Our daughter loves them, but my husband and I prefer the more-traditional look.
Also, some of the "white" lights that I've seen in stores tended to have a cold, bluish cast that I found unappealing. However, in researching this post, a Web site called HolidayLEDS sells what it calls "warm white" lights that it claims more closely resembles the color from the traditional clear bulb.
Beyond color preference, advantages seem to abound.
- Because the lights do not have filaments, they burn cool to the touch. Your tree may not dry out as quickly.
- Electricity use is very low. I calculated that it costs about 28 cents to burn 140 lights (two strings) eight hours a day for a month, compared with $2.15 for the mini lights.
- The manufacturer claims that the lights are more durable because the light-emitting chips are encapsulated in plastic and are water-tight, making them suitable for indoor our outdoor use. The lights, according to the Brite-Lite Web site, have a life expectancy of as much as 100,000 hours, or about 416 years of our typical use!
Expect to pay more for the newer technology. Strings of 70 lights cost from $20 to $26, depending on color, but they may be the last lights you ever buy!
Let me know if you've tried these lights and what you think of them. Also, I'd love to hear your own comments about Christmas lights. Meanwhile, a Happy Holiday from our family to yours!