Christmas Lights and Your Energy Bill: How to Save Money

These Christmas lights tips can maintain that holiday glow while reducing your power bill.

Christmas lights on row houses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Christmas lights are a festive sign of the season, but do you know how much they cost you to run during the holidays? The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) reports that lighting accounts for around 15% of an average home's electricity use. And at a time when inflation is still high and energy bills are rising across the U.S., every little bit helps. 

So we've rounded up some helpful energy statistics and tips on how you can whittle down your Christmas light's impact on your bottom line. 

Christmas lights: How much do they cost to run

Our colleagues at Tom's Guide (opens in new tab) report that since 2021, the national average cost of running Christmas lights has increased by $1.93, or 13%, bringing it to $16.48 in 2022. 

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To calculate your own festive light bill, use the following formula:

[wattage/1000 x time in hours] x cost per kWh in cents = cost to run Christmas lights 

The DoE (opens in new tab) estimates that would mean it costs $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day,for 40 days, with LEDs, compared to $10 for incandescent lights. But, who's not fed up of their Christmas tree before 40 days are up? 

Tom's Guide explains that if you plug in your lights for a few hours (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) each day in December, your bills could increase by the following amounts: 

  •  Average decorations with LED lights: $5 to $7 increase 
  •  Average decorations with incandescent lights: $33 increase 
  •  Elaborate decorations using LED lights: $47 increase 
  •  Elaborate decorations using incandescent lights: $350 increase

Use LED Christmas lights to save money

As you can see in the list above, the type of bulb you choose can help you save real money during the holiday season. While many older lights are made with incandescent bulbs, switching to LED lights can help you cut your costs drastically.

Southern California Edison (opens in new tab) (SCE), one of the largest U.S. utility companies, reports that energy costs can double based on the type of Christmas lights you choose. SCE contends that LEDs are less expensive and last much longer than standard C-7 bulbs or mini-lights. LEDs are also much cooler and safer since there's no filament or breakable glass.

SCE adds that certain LED holiday lights can be used for up to 200,000 hours, and that bright, colorful LEDs can reduce holiday lighting costs by up to 90%.  Five strings of LED lights can cost only 80 cents per month to operate versus nearly $20 per month for five strings of C-7 lights.

The same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now, according to DoE.

Try solar Christmas lights to save more

Solar Christmas lights are a way to save even more money over the long term on your holiday energy bills. The DoE explains that outdoor solar lights use solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity is stored in batteries for use at night. So after spending an initial $10-$50 for a basic solar light set (according to Google Shopping (opens in new tab)), you could enjoy free Christmas lighting for your home every December.

Just do your research before buying. The DoE cautions that "nightly run time" listings on most outdoor solar lighting systems are based on specific sunlight conditions. Less sunny regions, especially in the winter, can expect shorter runtime per night than average. Operating times in the winter months may vary as much as 30%–50% unless the solar lighting system has been sized specifically for winter operation. 

For more energy-saving content, check out our home savings hub.

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Audience Engagement Manager, Kiplinger.com

Ben Demers manages audience engagement and social media for Kiplinger.com. He joined Kiplinger in May 2017.