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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Castrillón

Lighting up your holidays

“Is your house on fire, Clark?”

“No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.”

I’m pretty sure my girlfriend aspires to one day decorate our house like Clark Griswold. For her and many others, more lights = more Christmas spirit. I have to admit, the smell of the Christmas tree and glow of the lights does make our apartment a bit more magical this time of year, but I also have been keeping a sharp eye on how it’s impacting our electricity bill.

While we may dream of a setup like the Griswold’s, it doesn’t appear that Clark’s dad ever taught him about the cost of such intense exterior illumination. I’d estimate that the volume of lights covering his house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation added hundreds of dollars to the family’s electrical bill over the holiday season. So how do you stay festive and frugal, without turning into a Scrooge?

Last week, we experimented with a new technology that I installed into our apartment. The IoT device provides a constant measurement of our energy usage and can connect to our smart home speaker. To distract my girlfriend from studying for her final exams, we ran around the apartment, turning lights and Christmas decorations on and off. Turning on the three strands of LED lights produced a negligible bump in our electricity usage, just 9W each. The one string of non-LED lights, however, raised it over 55W. Assuming two months of being plugged in every day for 5 hours (these will stay up beyond New Years, I am sure), 10 light strands (three LED and seven incandescent), and the $0.12/kWh rate (Georgia Power’s average rate), the light show will increase the electric bill in our 1000 s.f. apartment by $15!

This is just the beginning of a family’s bump in electricity bill over the holidays. Add in the oven for your Christmas cookies, increase in TV time for holiday movies while everyone is home, longer running of the HVAC system to warm the house, and you may experience sticker shock when the bill arrives in January. See below for how our energy increased during a similar turning on-and-off experiment with appliances.

To help, here are a few tips to ease the pressure this holiday season:

  1. Get LED lights. You’ll make your money back quickly.

  2. Educate your kids to turn the lights, TV, computer, etc. off when not using it. With more people in the house, chances are your appliances will be running longer. Get them to help out!

  3. Try to delay. If your washing machine, dishwasher, electric vehicle, or other appliances have a timer setting, run them at night. Energy costs per kWh drop significantly (from $0.12 to $0.02 in Georgia) during off-peak hours, so try to run as much as you can while you’re asleep.

  4. Understand your energy usage. At Su Casa Consulting, we rent or sell the Sense meters so that people can understand how they use energy at home or in a business. Using this real-time data, I can identify ways for you to increase your efficiency and save energy (and money). Give us a call for a quote and install!

Don’t be a Grinch and take down your festive decorations to save money this year. Instead, keep the Christmas spirit AND save money (or put it towards those Christmas gifts you’ve put off purchasing).

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