With pumpkin patches and Halloween in the rearview mirror, many people are now charging full speed ahead into holiday season decorating and lighting displays. Whether you believe in lighting up your home before or after Thanksgiving (a time-honored debate we won’t dare weigh in on here, we support all seasonal decorating equally), the common goal among everyone who decks the halls inside and out should be doing it with cost, time and energy savings in mind.
You don’t have to blow your holiday budget on a bigger energy bill to be bright and festive this year (or successfully turn your neighbors Grinch green with envy). If you make some smart lighting purchases, roll up your sleeves, and unleash your creativity you can have professional decorating results for DIY dollars.
Here are 4 key ways to maximize your holiday lighting display investment:
1. Make the switch to LED lighting
While LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting strands cost about three times what traditional incandescent lights cost, the return on investment in electric bill savings and lifespan makes them the hands-down choice for holiday displays. If you’re starting from square one on a new outdoor display, going all LED is the best way to start. If you have an existing display that you build on to each year, make all new purchases LED, then pick one existing item or area (usually one that already has some traditional bulbs missing or burnt out) and replace those with LED alternatives. LED lighting comes in many colors across the “warm” and “cool” spectrums that make matching older, incandescent color schemes is much easier today than it used to be when LEDs first hit the scene.
As far as cost savings go, here’s a comparison example: The typical C9 LED bulb needs about one watt of power, which is seven times less than the same-size incandescent bulb. If a 50-bulb strand of LED lights burns for 100 hours, it consumes five kilowatt-hours of power compared to the 35 kilowatt-hours of traditional, or non-LED, bulbs. At a cost of approximately 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, you can save about $3.60 per strand off your power bill. Take into account really large outdoor lighting displays that can easily use 1,000 or more lighting strands in their design and that would be a cost savings of $3,600 per 100 hours!
LED lights can also be linked together into much longer strings due to their lower power demands which reduce the need for extension cords and the risk of blowing breakers.
On the safety front, plastic LED bulbs don’t break as easily as incandescent glass bulbs, and LED also remains cool to the touch. This feature is easier on the hands and also minimizes the risk of fire.
Perhaps one of the best features of LED lights touted by consumers is the fact that if one LED bulb goes out, the rest of the strand will usually remain working, unlike incandescent bulbs which can lose an entire strand if one bulb breaks or burns out.
2. Timers are fundamental!
There’s no need to have your display burning bright after the sun comes up or throughout the daylight hours. While many people may prefer to still manually “flip on” their display’s power source each night, lighting design experts recommend timers to make life easy and save money on the electrical bill.
Nearly all professional holiday display companies, and most amateur lighting enthusiasts, use a series of timers to turn their massive designs on and off at designated times. Most commonly, ON at sundown and OFF just before sunrise.
If you prefer not to have timers that you set and adjust yourself, there are also preset timers that automatically power lights for a designated time once turned on, for example, five hours. Timers are inexpensive with most models running under $20 and many LED strands now come with timers built in.
3. Cut the cord (figuratively, of course) with battery power
One guaranteed way to save money on your power bill with lighting is not to use your home’s electricity for every, single item. By choosing some battery-powered items, like door wreaths, garland swags, or window candles, you ease the load on your power meter (and bill). It’s recommended to remove and store batteries after each holiday season. Since they are only used for a short time during the display, those batteries can be kept and reused for a few seasons before needing replacement. Rechargeable batteries are also an affordable option that provides a long lifespan and solid return on investment.
4. Soak up the sun
Skip some of the cost by skipping the plug or batteries altogether! Think solar power! You don’t have to give up design choices, either! Solar-powered LED holiday lights now come in the same variety of styles and colors as their traditional plug-in counterparts.
With solar-powered holiday display items, you’re also not confined by strand length or distance to the nearest extension cord or outlet, you can set up your solar-powered display items anywhere. The biggest consideration, however, in placement is that you get enough direct sun on that item’s rechargeable solar panel during the day to keep it on and active during your nighttime display hours.
Once you’ve chosen which kind of lighting and other holiday display features you’d like, keep these final helpful tips in mind
Safety first: Before putting anything up, do a thorough inspection of all light strands and display items before setting them out. There are few things more frustrating than stringing thousands of lights and having a section in the middle stay dark during the “big reveal” because there was a damaged light or strand in the mix. It may take an extra few seconds during setup, but test each strand or item before you connect it to the rest. It should also go without saying, we’re sure, however, timing your display setup to happen during dry days when working with ladders and electrical components is safer is always your best bet. If you have any concerns about your home’s power infrastructure or ability to handle increasingly larger holiday displays, just give On Time Electrical a call. Our highly-trained, licensed, and bonded Charlotte electricians can quickly tell you how much additional load your system can take and make recommendations on the best way to maximize your efforts, with minimal impact on power costs.
- Organize now, faster setup next year: When you take down your display, we recommend taking a few extra seconds as you wind up each light strand to quickly secure it with a twist tie before placing it in a bin with other stands. Ideally, putting each strand in its own bag (plastic grocery bags, clear zipper storage bags, etc.) marked with its location in the display, will really help speed the setup process the following year. The time you save not untangling yards and yards of lights the next season will be worth the few moments of organizing this year. It also helps save lighting strands from the damaging tug-o-war that can happen when multiple strands are stored together in a pile.
- Day after bird gets the worm: Hit your local big box home improvement stores and other holiday display retailers the day after Christmas. You’ll maximize your display dollar investment with sales that are often 50-75% off (or better!). This is also a great time to buy large, durable plastic storage bins.
Call On Time Electrical customer service 24/7 at (704) 675-7400. We are Charlotte’s go-to electrical contractors, ready to service all of your residential or business power needs.
You can also visit us online anytime at www.itselectriccharlotte.com. Check out our weekly and monthly specials, plus we waive the service call fee on ANY repair! Locally owned and operated, we’re On Time Electrical. It’s electric!