For Immediate Release: December 14, 2012
Media Contact: Adam Gottlieb - 916-654-4989


Trim Your Tree - and Your Lighting Bill - this Holiday Season

SACRAMENTO - The National Retail Federation predicts American consumers will spend $6.9 billion on holiday décor this Christmas season, more than they did last year. But thanks to evolving lighting technology, consumers may find their energy bills going down.

"More and more stores are selling energy efficient mini-lights or light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights in 2012. While these new lights may have a higher upfront cost, they use much less energy and last longer," said California Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller.

Based on an average national electricity rate of 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour, according to recent U.S. Energy Department data, consider the following holiday lighting costs:

Traditional Lights: The old incandescent bulbs consume about five watts per bulb. That means a typical residential customer will pay $26.30 a month to operate 10 strings of 25-bulb traditional bulbs for six hours per day for 30 days.

Miniature Lights: The average miniature light uses 0.5 watts per bulb. Ten strings of the bulbs, with 100 bulbs per string, will cost $10.50 per month for six hours.

Icicle Lights: Icicle lights that hang from the edge of a roof use the same amount of electricity as miniature bulbs, but a string of 100 bulbs will cover a much shorter distance than a straight string of miniature lights. Adding more strands of lights will consume more electricity.

LED Lights: An LED light uses around 0.05 watts per bulb, or a tenth the amount of a miniature bulb. Ten sets of 100 of these LED bulbs will cost the typical residential customer $1.05 per month to operate.

LEDs have other benefits besides using electricity sparingly. Because they don't contain filaments or glass, the solid-state bulbs are safer, more durable and shock-resistant. A Consumer Reports study reported the same sets of LED lights burned for over 4,000 hours, without a single failure. That means for more than 22 holiday seasons homeowners should be able to avoid that frustrating search for the one burnt out light bulb that's keeping an entire string of lights from working.

Since LEDs use much less power than incandescent bulbs, more of them can be hooked up to one outlet. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission normally suggests putting no more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord. More strings of LED lights, however, can be safely strung together. LEDs used in large displays are less likely to require special wiring or additional circuit breakers or fuses, which could reduce the costs of installation.

This year California's State Christmas Tree, on the Capitol grounds in Sacramento, is decorated with approximately 10,000 ultra-low wattage, energy efficient LED lights. The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. also is illuminated with thousands of LED lights and 120 star-shaped LED ornaments. In addition, 57 smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree glow with colorful LEDs.

LEDs also run cooler than incandescent bulbs, which helps to reduce the risk of fire and personal injury. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year more than 1,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday lights and trimmings. Christmas trees are involved in about 500 fires annually, resulting in an estimated $20 million in property loss and damage each year. That's why the Safety Commission recommends purchasing lights bearing a label from a testing laboratory like Underwriters' Laboratories, which puts its familiar UL symbol on approved products. They also remind consumers to make sure they use lights appropriately rated for indoor or outdoor use. Outdoor lights are typically more sturdy, the better to stand up cold and wet weather.

Whatever types of lights you install, consider simple ways to cut energy use. Use an automatic timer to turn lights on at dusk and turn them off at a specified time, so you never have to worry about forgetting and leaving the lights burning all night. For safety's sake, always turn off lights when you go to bed or leave the house.

Of course, the ultimate energy-saving decorating advice: Consider using fewer lights and adding more decorations that do not use any energy at all -- wreaths or poinsettias, ribbons and ornaments. It can provide a festive yet-energy efficient way to celebrate the holiday season.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. Created by the Legislature in 1974 and located in Sacramento, six basic responsibilities guide the Energy Commission as it sets state energy policy: forecasting future energy needs; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency and conservation by setting the state's appliance and building efficiency standards; supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs; developing renewable energy resources and alternative renewable energy technologies for buildings, industry and transportation; planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.