Calculating Your Christmas Energy Costs and Usage Formula

Calculating Your Christmas Energy Costs and Usage Formula

by | Energy, Energy Savings, Holiday Energy Costs

The holiday season can put a real strain on your wallet. Gifts, food, travel, and family get-togethers are all expenses you’re prepared for, but don’t forget about the less visible costs. For example, all those twinkling Christmas lights can really add to your electric bill. Use our simple formula to estimate the energy costs of all that holiday cheer.

How Much Electricity Do Christmas Lights Use?

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. If you’d rather not do the calculations yourself, you can still get a rough idea of how much extra you can expect to spend on electricity this season by looking at the three holiday decorator profiles we’ve created below. 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.

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Holiday Decorator Type 1: Tastefully Understated

This type of holiday decorator is the economical decorator. You fit this profile if you’re not looking to hang anything too big or fancy — just enough to show your holiday spirit.

 Incandescent BulbsLED Bulbs
10 basic strings of lights for trees, roof, etc.≈ 408 watts≈ 48 watts
× .001.408 kWh.048 kWh
× 6 hours2.448 kWh per day.088 kWh per day
× 30 days73.44 kWh per season8.64 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season (rounded up)$9.77$1.15

Holiday Decorator Type 2: Feeling the Holiday Cheer

You’re a holiday decorator type 2 if you’re a little more enthusiastic about your lights. It’s not too nuts, but people do turn their heads when they drive by your house.

 Incandescent BulbsLED Bulbs
20 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc.816 basic watts + 3,500 C9 watts≈ 4,316 watts96 basic watts + 480 C9 watts≈ 576 watts
500 feet of C9 string for the roof and/or yard  
× .0014.316 kWh.576 kWh
6 hours25.896 kWh per day3.456 kWh per day
× 30 days776.88 kWh per season103.68 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season (rounded up)$103.33$13.79

Holiday Decorator Type 3: The Clark Griswold

You go all out. Thousands of lights, an inflatable family of snowmen, moving reindeer cutouts, a musical light show with all the Christmas classics—the whole shebang. People drive from miles around just to look and point at your show-stopping holiday display.

 Incandescent BulbsLED Bulbs
50 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc.2,040 basic watts + 9,100 C9 watts + 6506 icicle watts≈ 17,646 watts240 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  
× .00117.646 kWh1.946 kWh
× 6 hours105.876 kWh per day11.676 kWh per day
× 30 days3,176.28 kWh per season350.28 kWh per season
Total Average Cost for Season(rounded up)$422.45$46.59

Save on Your Energy Costs This Holiday Season

As you can see from the above examples, LED lights are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, saving you money in the long term. LED lights also last tens of thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs, so you can use them year after year. In fact, you may be passing these lights down to your grandkids someday. If you’re looking for more 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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