The cost of Christ­mas lights

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - By Ta­mara Chuang

The monthly elec­tric bill says it all: You can pay $13.65 a month to have col­or­ful strands of Christ­mas lights out­lin­ing your home’s rooftop, or you can pay 22 cents.

That’s the typ­i­cal cost dif­fer­ence be­tween pow­er­ing five strands of old-fash­ioned in­can­des­cent hol­i­day light bulbs and the same num­ber of LED lights, ac­cord­ing to Xcel En­ergy Colorado.

But switch­ing to the more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED lights isn’t a com­plete no brainer. The cost of LEDs are still higher than reg­u­lar bulbs, and Christ­mas LED light prices haven’t fallen as dra­mat­i­cally as LED light bulbs for ev­ery­day uses. The price of LED bulbs — the type you might have in a desk lamp or over­head light in your home — fell 28 to 32 per­cent a year be­tween 2011 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to a re­search re­port by Lawrence Berke­ley Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory. (The lab didn’t study Christ­mas lights.)

“The prices have pretty much held steady be­cause man­u­fac­tur­ing the LED

bulbs (for Christ­mas lights) is still a spe­cialty and ex­pen­sive,” said Shel­lie Gard­ner, co-owner of Christ­mas Light Source in Dal­las. “A reg­u­lar C9 bulb is 26 cents, but if you were to get a C9 in LED in warm white, it’s $1.42.”

But LEDs will save you money in the long run, be­cause of the elec­tric­ity bill. They con­sume 80 per­cent less en­ergy than in­can­des­cent lights and tend to last 25 times longer, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy.

Of course, Gard­ner adds, “light strings are sus­cep­ti­ble to weather so there’s no guar­an­tee that LED lights will last longer. And if a squir­rel eats through a string of LED lights, it will fail as fast as glass lights.” The en­ergy cost of Christ­mas lights

The typ­i­cal Xcel cus­tomer in Colorado uses 632 kilo­watts and has a monthly util­ity bill of $77.45 in De­cem­ber. Adding five strands of Christ­mas lights adds this to the bill: • $13.65 five sets of 25 in­can­des­cent C9 bulbs • 22 cents for five 25-bulb C9 LED strands • $3.10 for five 100-bulb strands of in­can­des­cent mini lights • 60 cents for five 100-bulb strands of LED mini lights Source: Xcel En­ergy How to cal­cu­late the en­ergy cost

Just know­ing the elec­tri­cal rat­ing (watts) can help clue you in on the cost of a strand of lights. Here are the steps to cal­cu­late your own. As an ex­am­ple, we’ll take the Philips 100 mul­ti­color in­can­des­cent mini-lights — which use 19.2 watts — through the cal­cu­la­tion. 1. Find out how many watts the lights use = 19.2 watts 2. Mul­ti­ply by 0.001 to find kilo­watt-hour = 0.0192 3. Mul­ti­ply by 5, an es­ti­mate of how many hours a day the lights will be on = 0.096 4. Mul­ti­ply by 30, an es­ti­mate of days per month the lights are on = 2.88 5. Mul­ti­ply by 10.7 cents, Xcel En­ergy’s “all-in cost,” which in­cludes the com­mod­ity price, rid­ers and fixed charges = 30.8 cents 6. Mul­ti­ply by num­ber of strands: 5 strands x 31 cents = $1.55 per month Source: Xcel En­ergy, Den­ver Post re­search

Need some help? Use The Den­ver Post’s handy hol­i­day-lights en­ergy cal­cu­la­tor and plug in your strands of Christ­mas lights. Find it at dpo.st/ xmaslights. The cost of Christ­mas lights

Non-LED Christ­mas lights are be­com­ing harder to find. But we found some at Tar­get so we did our best to find sim­i­lar prod­ucts to show a price com­par­i­son. Note that the num­ber of bulbs per prod­uct are dif­fer­ent. • $7.49, Won­der­shop 25bulb in­can­des­cent C9 mul­ti­col­ored • $11.99, Philips 25-bulb LED C9 mul­ti­col­ored • $4.99, Philips 100 min­i­mul­ti­col­ored in­can­des­cent string • $11.99, Philips 60-count mini-mul­ti­col­ored LED

• $19.99, Philips 50 mini mul­ti­col­ored LED so­lar Source: Tar­get What’s new-ish in Christ­mas lights

Laser lights: The quick­est way to add hol­i­day light­ing are laser lights, which are staked in the ground and cast a wall of lights on a house, tree or other ob­ject. Gold­en­based In­fin­ity Laser Lights says its $145 Qu­a­tro Laser Light, a two-piece light that cov­ers up to 6,000 feet, uses about 5 watts, said Dan Kennedy, with In­fin­ity.

In­ter­net-of-things lights: Con­nected Christ­mas lights are all the range in the DIY tech com­mu­nity. Sites like Cheerlights.com and In­structa­bles of­fer tips on how to get your lights to re­spond to voice or Twit­ter com­mands to change col­ors or even pro­gram lights into a pat­tern based on the Net­flix hit “Stranger Things,” where a mother com­mu­ni­cates with her lost son us­ing let­ters and lights.

So­lar lights: Don’t mess with power out­lets or pay any en­ergy costs with so­lar-pow­ered Christ­mas lights, which are widely avail­able on­line at stores like Ama­zon. At Tar­get, a strand of 50 so­lar-pow­ered, mul­ti­col­ored mini lights is $19.99. Where to re­cy­cle old lights

Home De­pot no longer ac­cepts old Christ­mas lights but search­ing on­line shows a hand­ful of places that ac­cept old lights for a fee or ex­change.

• Golden Re­cy­cling in Golden takes old Christ­mas lights — even bro­ken ones — for a fee. See its site for de­tails: gold­en­re­cy­cling.org/christ­maslights.html

• Christ­mas Light Source in Texas also ac­cepts old and bro­ken Christ­mas lights in ex­change for a dis­count on a fu­ture lights or­der. De­tails at dpo.st/xmaslight­strade.

Mod­ern LED Christ­mas lights are eas­ier on monthly en­ergy bills but still cost more to buy. Thinkstock by Getty Images

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