The cost of Christmas light displays

BC Hydro talks incandescent versus LEDs

A new BC Hydro report finds the trend towards more elaborate holiday displays has increased the province’s power load from electronic decorations and lights by about 15 per cent since 2012, adding to costs for many.

The report titled “Grinch to Griswold: Trend toward bigger holiday displays increasing electricity bills” found about a 40 per cent drop in outdoor lighting load by 2011 because of the mass adoption of LEDs, which use 90 per cent less energy. Since then, however, it has increased due to more elaborate outdoor displays.

In fact, a survey commissioned by BC Hydro found one in three British Columbians have a neighbour with a mega display. The survey also found these holiday fanatics are:

* Installing inflatable holiday decorations: these decorations have become increasingly popular over the past decade, and add to costs because they are typically run 24/7 and use a lot more power than a strand of LED bulbs.

* Using lots of lights and electronics: four per cent said they install more than 750 lights each year, and this number can climb to over 100,000 lights for the biggest displays.

* Pushing the limits: 15 per cent admit to blowing a breaker switch from overloading their lights and decorations.

Lighting these elaborate displays with older, incandescent bulbs is expensive. Clark Griswold’s infamous holiday display in the film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would have cost him around $4,700 during the holiday season using incandescent lights, compared to the $50 it would have cost if it was lit by LEDs.

The survey also found 57 per cent of British Columbians put up outdoor holiday lights and among those are different levels of decorating enthusiasm:

* The Grinch (42 per cent): no holiday lights, no added cost.

* The holiday minimalist (38 per cent): three strands of lights, on average.

* The holiday enthusiast (13 per cent): eight strands of lights, on average.

* The holiday fanatic – also known as ‘The Griswold’ (6 per cent): at least 10 strands of lights, and often much more to light up the entire block.

Although most British Columbians are putting up lights, one-third of displays are still using some older inefficient incandescent holiday lights – increasing their energy costs and consumption. British Columbians can save around $40 over the holiday season by switching eight strands of incandescent lights to energy-efficient LEDs. LED holiday lights also last 10 times longer and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

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