Cost to Operate Christmas Lights
How Much Do Christmas Lights Cost to Operate?
We don’t sell or install lighting products at Magic Touch Mechanical, but we have conducted thousands of home energy audits in the Mesa – Phoenix, Arizona area. Lighting costs are one of the many things we calculate when modeling a home’s energy usage and carbon footprint. The nerd in me couldn’t help myself but to figure out the cost to operate Christmas lights so I thought I’d share my findings with our readers. If you feel the need to return the favor with a holiday gift, I love cash, gift cards, motorcycles, BMX parts and bourbon. 😉
The 3 most common types of light bulbs used in homes:
- Incandescent (old-school light bulbs)
- CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light bulb)
- LED (Light Emitting Diode)
I doubt many people still have halogen lamps (the tall skinny lamps that were popular in the 80’s). Most people know by now they are very expensive to operate. Also, because of the high amount of heat they generate, they can be dangerous. If you still have a halogen lamp in your home I highly recommend you replace it with something safer and more efficient.
The three common types listed above are listed in most expensive to least expensive to operate order. I.E. the incandescent bulb costs the most and the LED costs the least to operate. However, typically the upfront cost of bulbs is the opposite, with incandescent bulbs being the least expensive to purchase, and LED costing the most.
Is the higher cost of an LED Bulb worth it?
The short answer is yes. Because of the significantly reduced power costs and the additional longevity of LED vs. incandescent or for that matter even CFL light bulbs, the additional upfront cost of LED bulbs eventually pays for itself and will actually save you money in the long run. How long it takes to recoup the higher upfront costs depends on how many hours a day the light stays on and the cost of electricity in your area.
A few years ago, I purchased a fairly large home with a lot of recessed lights, chandeliers and wall sconce lighting fixtures. One of my first orders of business was to replace all the lights in the house with LED bulbs. It was an expensive trip to the hardware store, however the savings more than justified the purchase in short time.
Christmas Lights Cost to Operate – Side By Side Comparison
Decorative Christmas lights are typically either Incandescent or LED. I’ve never seen or heard of a CFL Christmas light so we’ll stop talking about them now!
Now that we know what type of bulb is what, let’s look at the cost to operate the two different types of lightbulbs found in ordinary Christmas light strings, incandescent and LED. For the purposes of this demonstration I’m going to use one (1) string of one-hundred (100) bulbs, the most common size.
In this scenario, I’m using an assumption that the cost of electricity is $0.10 per kilowatt hour (your cost may be higher or lower per kWh). Also for this comparison we’re using the assumption that the lights are on for 6-hours per night.
C9-Incandescent (2” aka full-size LARGE bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.42
Per month: $12.60
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $63.00
C9-LED (1.5” aka full-size LARGE bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.06
Per month: $1.80
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $9.00
Cost difference: C9 incandescent bulbs cost 7X more than C9 LED bulbs
- C7-Incandescent (2” aka full-size MEDIUM bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.30
Per month: $9.00
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $45.00
- C7-LED (2” aka full-size MEDIUM bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.03
Per month: $0.90
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $4.50
Cost difference: C7 incandescent bulbs cost 10X more than C7 LED bulbs
- Mini-Incandescent (1/2” MINI bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.02
Per month: $0.72
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $3.60
- Mini-LED (1/2” MINI bulb) / per 100 bulb string:
Cost per day: $0.00
Per month: $0.12
Cost per month assuming 5 strings of lights: $0.60
Cost difference: Mini incandescent bulbs cost 6X more than mini LED bulbs
Christmas Lights Cost to Operate – The Bottom Line
Clearly, whether using LED bulbs or incandescent bulbs, the mini lights cost significantly less to operate than medium of large bulbs. And LED’s are the clear winner at less than ½ a cent per day.
In this example, we used the cost per 1 string of 100 bulbs and 5-strings of 100. If your display is the talk of the neighborhood you are likely using dozens of strings. Do you want the largest display in the neighborhood? If so, mini LED bulbs will save you a small fortune and justify the additional upfront cost – in just one holiday season!
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