How much does it cost to decorate your house with Christmas lights?

Discuss

66 Responses to “How much does it cost to decorate your house with Christmas lights?”

  1. Boundegar says:

    I wish my house looked like that.

  2. Donald Petersen says:

    Not too shabby.  Buck and a quarter a night strikes me as an okay surcharge for my five-hour-nightly Xmas light schedule, moral questions of unnecessary power usage aside.  And my display is modest compared to that one.  (Not to say “less tacky.”  I refuse to go down the Giant Inflatable Santa road, but my trailer-park tastes and upbringing forbid me from calling someone else’s Xmas display tacky.  In my circles, tacky’s kinda the gold standard.)

  3. dave3 says:

    WAAAAATT?

  4. Xploder says:

    When I tell my wife that the reason I refuse to decorate the outside of the house because of the cost, she gets pissed. Now I have at least a BIT of proof. Then again, I’m atheist, she was raised Shiite Catholic, and the only holiday I care about is Halloween. So until I figure out how to raise the dead on my lawn for entertainment purposes as opposed to religious ones, the Church people stay ahead.

    • kringlebertfistyebuns says:

      Eh…plenty of “winter” themed decor out there.  The lights aren’t specifically religious…give it a go.  

      Unless you just can’t be arsed, that is. 

    • awjt says:

      I refuse to decorate the outside of the house because I hate all the neighbors.  If I liked them, I’d give them something pretty.  If I hated them more, I’d decorate so much they couldn’t sleep at night.  Darkness means the juuuuusst right amount of hatred.

    • dmc10 says:

      Well, research it a bit and you’d realize a lot of Christmas decorations don’t have much to do with Christianity at all, many have Pagan and pre-Christian Scandinavian roots.

      Actually a lot of Christian holiday traditions have totally non-christian roots, Oestre and Easter being another example.

      • Dlo Burns says:

        The whole easter/ishtar thing bugs me because (except for german) every other language calls it passover/passen.

        • jackbird says:

          The events of Easter took place* during Passover (the Last Supper was a Seder), but they are two different holidays.

          *or not.  But at least are said to have taken place.

  5. Jeremy Pickett says:

    I don’t get it–does this mean we shouldn’t put tacky light displays on our lawns, or we should use LED tacky light displays?  Or that I should try and not be such a Grinch?  :]

    (personally I’m voting for an 800 watt LED array, that would look amazing)

  6. Eric says:

    Cheap electricity, brought to you by atomic power!

  7. thecleaninglady says:

    Remember, 50% of the electricity in the U.S. is produced by burning coal. And 70% is produced by burning non-renewable stuff. Which, eventually, we get to breathe. I don’t know if this adds to your costs, but I count it in. I also add the lives and ecosystems destroyed by mining and mountain top removal.

    http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/index.html

  8. charlesj says:

    Bonus question:  what about the energy cost of making the lights and shipping them from China?  You need to divide that by the total lifetime hours of use – which I’m guessing is not very long given that they often get thrown out after a few bulbs have failed.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Not at all!  You’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that I’m still using my grandma’s big-ass Made-In-The-USA C9 incandescent sets from the early 70s!  They sure built ‘em to last back then, and the kids get a kick out of watching the wheel in our electricity meter spin like there’s no tomorrow when we switch ‘em on.  I swear I can see the neighborhood streetlights dim, like somebody’s riding Old Sparky to their just reward!

      Nah, I’m just joshin’.  Since I switched to LED lights, my total Xmas light power draw has gone from an estimated 1,250 watts (that’s ~10 strings of 25 C7 lights per string, with an estimated lifespan of 1,000 hours per bulb) down to 24 watts (same number of lights, but LED instead of incandescent).  And the bulb lifespan is now 200,000 hours, which works out to nearly 23 years if they were kept on 24/7.

      So, unless I’m missing some important calculation, turning on my Xmas lights uses about half the power of my regular porchlight, which I turn off for the season anyway.  Sounds like a net gain to me.

      Yer welcome.

  9. Edward Brennan says:

    For some reason, complaining about electrical usage while surfing a site like boing boing seems somehow kettle/black.

    • Drew_Gehringer says:

       eh…considering a google Search makes about as much of a carbon impact as a few people breathing, and browsing this site’s likely to be a tiny percent-of-a-percent of that due to not having nearly as many servers…

  10. nixiebunny says:

    My boss’s house uses about 6500 Watts, as he informed me today.

    One year as we were driving to his house for the annual office holiday party, we passed a utility truck checking out a big electrical junction box a couple blocks from his house that had been hit by a car. When we got to the boss’s house, it was dark and the inflatable penguins were flaccid. Serves him right.

  11. kringlebertfistyebuns says:

    For reference, the LED strings (25 C-7 size bulbs) I have on my house use 0.18 watts per string.  Meaning you can put up a ton of them before it really makes much difference.  

    I also put up a bunch of blowmold decorations, which I have endeavored to convert to CFL as much as possible.  I use more power than I’d ideally prefer, but it’s still FAR less than incandescents.    When LEDs come down a bit more, I’ll be switching over to those.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      I don’t wanna split hairs, ’cause your overall point is correct, but are you really using 0.18 watts per string, or per bulb?  I don’t have my own light packaging handy, but this site here shows a string of 25 C7 LED bulbs, and on the Specifications tab they show 2.4 watts for the string, and 0.096 watts per bulb.

      Then again, you might have super-efficient LEDs, for all I know.  But as I said, your overall point is valid: Xmas lights aren’t nearly as power-suckingly awful as they were a generation ago.  Used to be the box said you could join up to three strands together.  You’ll note that the linked set of 25 LED lights shows a limit of one hundred eleven linked strands on one circuit.  That’s 2,775 individual lights on one outlet, drawing 266 watts.  That’s power consumption in the neighborhood of two old CRT TV sets, and would light my lovely house eleven times over.

      • kringlebertfistyebuns says:

        You’re actually correct; I was conflating current with wattage AND completely bolloxing the numbers.

        My LED C-7s (I like the commercial-grade ones with wider bulb spacing) use 0.03 amps per string of 25, which works out to…uh…3.6W @ 120V.  

        By contrast – from what I can find, a string of 100 M5 LEDs (i.e. the miniature Christmas lights) draws about 9.6W, or 0.08A.

  12. xzzy says:

    Make ‘em illegal at the same time they ban street lights.

    I wanna see stars, not pissing contests.

  13. I bought a strand of 125 commercial grade (5 LED per bulb) ‘ceramic’ C9′s this year.  The payback period is great, 3.5 years.  The downside is I spent my $200 lights budget on one strand.  But finally there’s something out there that isn’t total crap.  After a few years I should have a decent display again.

  14. 3William56 says:

    In addition, you can easily find solar powered LED strings. A 3″ square solar cell powers them all night, with a net power and carbon cost of… zero (nit picking about cost of production and shipping aside), and as a bonus don’t need any mains wiring to put them up a tree or on the roof, far more reliable than incandescent and no mains safety issues or transformer losses either. I have four of them annoying the neighbour’s cat, cost $30 a pop and one has been gracing my balcony continuously for a year, so no longevity issues either.

    Really – mains powered incandescents are dinosaur tech.

  15. glurpo says:

    Here’s a fun one – from ABC’s “20/20,” a profile of an Oklahoma woman who goes all-out for xmas, contrasted with my friend Greg Hanscom, senior editor at Grist.com, who keeps it a bit more mellow.

    http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/christmas-extremists-17910169

  16. Gyrofrog says:

    When I lived in Austin, the houses on 37th Street were festooned with lights (hopefully they still are).  I recall reading that one family painted the individual bulbs and would start doing so in July. I also remember walking around one house, they had even covered each bulb with an empty prescription bottle – when I got to the electrical meter, the disc was spinning about like a 45 rpm record and there was tip money stuffed underneath.

    They would even string the lights across the street, from one house to another, using the utility cables.  One night we went to visit and the entire street was dark.  Turned out that the city (which owns the electric utility) complained about the Christmas lights on their utility lines, and took them down.  So the entire street turned off all their Christmas lights in protest.  The backlash was so strong that not only did the city relent, they sent a crew back out to put the lights back the way they had been.

  17. jepollock says:

    Wow, that’s some cheap power.  Here in New Zealand, during winter, I pay US$0.22/kwh.

  18. Guest says:

    As suburban and aesthetically disgusting and shoving-your-christian-holiday-in-my face those are, below the bottom line I find these specks of light in the darkest month quite tolerable.

    • Drew_Gehringer says:

       Considering how many ‘Christmas’ traditions are actually stolen from pagan religions, I wouldn’t really call Christmas lights (or basically any other Christmas decoration that isn’t a Nativity scene) ‘shoving religion in your face’.

      • FWIW, nativity scenes have their roots in the cult devotions of Dionysus and Mithras. A diorama of the birth of the god is the kind of thing you would’ve found in any decently appointed pagan household shrine c. 200 AD.

  19. ando bobando says:

    “Christmas” lights, to me, are great at protecting against Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s too bad we don’t put them up in January, because that month is even crummier than December when it comes to darkness/cold/general gloominess. It’s well worth the $0.25/hr as far as I’m concerned, although I suspect my ~10 strings of LEDs (4 years use out of them and counting) use significantly less than that.

    • Dlo Burns says:

      I’ve thought about buying more lights during the post xmass firesale and making a Closet Of Infinite Happy Warmth. Probably will never get around to it.

      • jimkirk says:

        I have a tasteful string of LED lights under my soffit and a string hung around the living room that I use all year.  I call them my “festive lights”.

        I also made a foot tall LED street number and mounted it in my garage window.  I always hate trying to find a house number at night.  Also, emergency vehicles and delivery trucks appreciate the easily visible landmark.

    • xzzy says:

      The solstice is December 21, so technically, January is less gloomy because the quantity of daylight is growing again.

      • ando bobando says:

        Assuming that the only criterion you use for measuring gloominess is the total number of daylight hours, then yes, that’s true. But January is colder, has no holidays, has more snow, and just all around sucks in general. :P

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Maybe it’s my trailer park upbringing showing again (I had many neighbors whose lights stayed up unlit all the livelong year), but I keep my lights up as late into January as I can.  Two or three weeks.  I too appreciate the extra dollop of cheer during an otherwise cheerless month.  Pasadena has had pretty sunny Januaries lately, but the angle of the sunlight is low and harsh, and the days are short, so it bums me out.  I don’t think I could put up with January in an area with actual bad weather.

  20. jbrnd says:

    I used to live close to this house in Sydney, NS: http://www.fotothing.com/photos/246/246e80367ea5fa0e64eacdc6a84d3a17_64a.jpg

    And this is in a place where the median household income is $41,000 and power costs 13 cents/kWh.

  21. surreality says:

    This reminds me of being a child getting a ride home and saying “Yeah my house is on the right, the one with no lights” because every other house on the block had ‘em. They were pretty, but we were Jewish. I think the blue lights are very pretty and when I have a house of my own I might put those up as just festive lights.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      I had to ask my mom about the blue lights when I was a kid.  There weren’t a great many Jewish homes in our trailer park (if any at all), so while we drove around the surrounding neighborhoods looking at lights, I wondered aloud why you’d occasionally see a house with all blue lights, but none with all red or all green or whatever.  For an embarrassingly long time (up until 4th grade or so), my only concept of Jewishness was “those are the people with the all-blue Christmas lights.”

  22. Jacob Cazzell says:

    Two years ago my display (about 30,000 lights) used almost 98 amps when fully on (10,789 watts) because it was all incandescent.  It was also animated and only ran for about 4 hours a night.  So the net cost increase to me wasn’t substantial.

    This year my display is a smidge bigger, but a lot has been converted to LED and my power usage measures in around 30 – 35 amps in total.  So I’ve cut the power consumption by 2/3 migrating to LEDs.  I expect by 2014 to be fully LED and I should be able to run 45,000+ lights off a single 15 amp circuit.

  23. relawson says:

     I’m not the most eco-minded person in the world, but to me it’s not about how much it costs to do it. Good for you if you can put on the world’s best neighborhood light show. Really, pat yourself on the back. Whatever makes you feel superior.

    I absolutely hate the blatant waste of energy. Mr. Jones uses a few bucks a night, sure, but when there are millions of you doing it the cut goes much deeper than your pocket.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      Here’s what makes me feel superior: when I walk outside looking at the lights with my kids, my 24-watt light display is on, but my 150-watt plasma TV is off.  Sit and stew at the wasteful glow of Christmas cheer emanating from suburbia all you want, Grinchy McScrooge.  Just do it in the dark.

      • relawson says:

        That is a good balance. Keep the greater draw of resources ( the idiot box) off in lieu of an alternate visual stimulus.

        Talk to the kiddo’s about parallel vs. series electrical circuits and how one bulb can go out while the other stay on. 

        Sounds like a good trade-off to me :) 

Leave a Reply