Monday, December 10, 2012

Sustainable Christmas Lights

In the darkest part of the year it's hard to deny the beauty of trees and homes sparkling. But all of those Christmas lights drain our electricity and rack up massive bills. Electricity usage spikes a staggering 39 percent during the holidays. Holiday lights alone use more than six terrawatt hours every year, which is enough to power 500,000 homes for a month.

Image courtesy of Lucy Baldwin and123RF

1. Only use Christmas lights for a few hours per day. For outdoor lights, a good rule of thumb is to turn them on once the sky is completely dark and turn them off as soon as the first person in your house goes to bed. Don't forget to turn off the lights on your tree before you go to bed and consider only plugging them back in once the sun has set the next day.

2. Put your lights on a timer. You no longer have to worry about if you turned them off and they are always on at the perfect time.

3. Invest in LED lights. They are less expensive than they used to be, and they pay for themselves over their lifetime in the amount of energy saved. They last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 90 percent less electricity. I even have a pair in my room that I use when I don't feel like having a bright lamp on, and the light they give out is softer and easier to look at then the original LED Christmas lights were. 

4. If you can see your house from space, it's too much. Do you really need that many strands of lights? Instead of covering every inch of your home in lights, consider just doing the outline of the roof or a single tree. Highlight what you want with your lights instead of blinding your neighbors and drivers. Same goes for your tree, if it hurts to look at, it's way too much. Try to cut back to two or three strands of lights.

5. Avoid the blow up creatures that live on people's lawns. Not only do they require a lot of energy, but they are also noisy and not made out of sustainable materials. Instead, consider making your own figures out of wood or other sustainable materials. 

6. Pick the classics. The multicolored strobing neon lights seem really cool this year, along with the plastic snowflakes and figures that light up, but will those still be useful in 10 years? Pick timeless shapes and colors that will not become outdated before they run out of life. The average LED light when treated well is expected to live 40 years, that's a long time to be looking at Santa's belly light up.

To see out how much energy your new LED lights can save or how much your old lights use, check out this calculator


  1. Nice post. I love Christmas lights, but have never been able to bring myself to use them, not only because of the energy used to run them, but also the embodied energy of the strings of lights themselves. I have seen that you can get solar LED strings now, which is more appealing, but stil...

    I do love a tasteful display on someone else's house though:)

    1. Thanks for your comment and for reading! Not using Christmas lights is definitely a great option, especially since there are so many beautiful decorations that don't require any energy.