Calculating Your Christmas Energy Costs

How Much Electricity Do Your Christmas Lights Use?

It’s no secret that between gifts, food, and perhaps having a few friends or family stay over, the holiday season can get pretty expensive. But how much are all those festive strings of lights going to up your electric bill this year?

While we can’t give you an exact number, by using a simple formula and by providing some examples, we can give you a solid idea of what to expect.

The Merry Math

How much energy do your holiday lights use, exactly? To figure that out, we’ll need to do some math. But don’t worry. We’ve already made the formula for you. All you have to do is plug in your own numbers.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of electricity as of September 2017 was 13.3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). To figure out your kilowatt-hours, first find out your wattage for each of your strings of lights, then multiply that by 0.001.

Step 1: watts × 0.001=kWh

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

Step 2: kWh × hours per day=kWh per day

Now 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.  

Step 3: kWh per day × number of days=kWh per season

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 for a season of running your holiday lights.

Step 4: kWh per season × 0.133=total cost

Confused? That’s all right. If you’d rather not do the calculations yourself, you can still get a pretty good idea of how much 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 basic string of incandescent lights and 70 bulbs per basic string of LED lights.

Holiday Decorator Type 1: Merry and Bright

We define this type of holiday decorator as 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 and make kids’ eyes light up when they pass by your home.

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: Deck the House

You’re a holiday decorator type 2 if you’re a little more enthusiastic about your lights. You don’t necessarily want to go “all out,” but you definitely want to turn some heads when people drive by your house. Maybe make the neighbors a little jealous.

Incandescent Bulbs LED Bulbs
  • 20 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc.
  • 500 feet of C9 string for the roof and/or yard
816 basic watts + 3,500 C9 watts≈ 4,316 watts 96 basic watts + 480 C9 watts≈ 576 watts
× .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: O Holy Lights!

You’re a show-stopper, not to be outdone. People come from miles around to see your jaw-dropping holiday display, and it’s totally worth the drive. People may even look up at your lights and shed some tears. Not just tears of joy, either, but tears caused by bunches and bunches of bright blazing bulbs burning their retinas.

Incandescent Bulbs LED Bulbs
  • 50 basic strings of lights for trees, walkways, etc.
  • 1,300 feet of C9 string for the roof and/or yard
  • 95 icicle lights
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
× .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 you can see from the above examples, LED lights may require a larger initial investment, but they are far more energy efficient than cheaper incandescent bulbs and will, therefore, save you a great deal over time. Not only do they use fewer watts to run, but LED lights last tens of thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs, so you can use them year after year … after year.

If you’re looking for more ways to save on your electric bill for the holidays, make sure to use timers to avoid accidentally leaving your lights on. And instead of connecting multiple strings of lights together, you can use extension cords in less-visible areas to help you get more “mileage” out of your display.