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How Christmas lights affect your energy bill and how to save

Christmas lights

December is here, and homes around Australia and the world are putting up their Christmas trees and decorations in time for the holiday season. As your home sparkles, you might find yourself wondering how these lights add up on your energy bill and we’re here to tell you. 

There’s no surprise adding more lights to your home is going to up your power usage, although the amount, size and type play a big factor into just how much your energy bill will rise. 

Another big factor in the power usage of your lights is the amount of time they are left on. Lights that are on all night will use significantly more energy than lights that automatically turn off on a timer, although some households may prefer to light up all night. 

In December 2018, Aussies spent around $171 million on electricity, which equates to an extra $69 per energy bill. While you may be happy to fork out a bit of extra cash to light up your home, choosing smart alternatives can keep your home festive without running up your power bill.

LED lights are much more efficient than alternatives

If you’ve got incandescent lights, be prepared to pay more on your energy bill than you would if you had LEDs. 

A strand of 50 old-fashioned bulbs uses around 0.3 kilowatts of power to light, while a strand of 50 LED lights uses just 0.004 kilowatts. This difference becomes more substantial the more lights you have set up, and of course the amount of time you run them for. 

For those that like to decorate more heavily, LEDs are an essential to make sure you’re not going to incur a heavy increase on your energy bill. LEDs bring the power cost right down, allowing you to decorate more and pay less. 

It can cost just 60 cents for the month of December to run a set of 250 icicle lights for 10 hours a night, just 50 cents for a set of 100 fairy lights and just one cent for each star garden light. LEDs are efficient and cheap to run, while traditional incandescent lights can take that cost up almost twenty times. 

LED lights are also known to be more durable than incandescent bulbs, meaning you won’t need to replace them as often. If you’re purchasing new lights, take a look at the wattage and type of bulb to ensure you’re picking something that won’t cost a lot in the long run. 

Timers can keep your lights off when nobody is around

Another factor that can bring your energy cost on is keeping your lights flashing all night long. While you want your lights on in the night when they can be appreciated, keeping them on into the late night and early morning when nobody is around to see them can add unnecessary costs to your energy bill. 

Investing in lights with a timer, or using a switch timer (that turns off an entire switch) can keep your lights on when you want them running, and off when everybody is asleep. This can also ensure the lights get turned off anytime you happen to forget to switch them off yourself. 

If you turn your lights on at 6pm, setting a timer to turn them off at midnight ensures you’re using half as much energy as you would if you turned them off at 6am. 

Running lights on an off-peak tariff will cost less

Do you know how much you’re charged for electricity by your energy provider? A lot of people don’t even though it’s the most important factor in how much you pay for power. 

One area that energy providers differ is on tariff charges: tariffs can be a flat rate, or in peak as off-peak charges. A flat rate tariff means you’ll pay the same amount for electricity at all times of the day, while a peak and off-peak charge will see you pay less for your electricity outside of the most popular hours. 

The hours can fluctuate between jurisdictions but for New South Wales, off-peak electricity rates are charged between 10pm-7am, with a shoulder (in between) rate from 7am-2pm and 8pm-10pm. The peak hours of 2pm-8pm are charged at the highest rate between Monday and Friday, while weekends are charged as shoulder or off-peak. 

While the amount you’re paying in each period is completely dependent on your energy provider, timing is important. If you’re on a peak and off-peak tariff it will obviously cost less money to have your lights switched on during the off-peak hours when you’re being charged less. 

Haven't picked out your Christmas tree yet? Let us help you pick one out!

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Cooper Langby
Cooper Langby
Money writer

Cooper writes across all aspects of personal finance here at Mozo. With a double degree in Journalism and Communications & Media from the University of Wollongong, Cooper has previously written sports content for the Fansided network. He is now turning his focus to finances and is always looking for new ways to educate himself and our readers on the best ways to save money, and budget effectively.