If you’re considering upgrading to LED Christmas lights, you might be curious how much the change saves you. Here’s the difference between the two lighting types over the course of a holiday season.
Here’s How Much Electricity Christmas Lights Use
As you would expect, there is a significant difference in the cost of running traditional and incandescent and LED Christmas lights—not unlike the big difference between using traditional incandescent bulbs in your home and LED bulbs. Let’s look at how much energy each type uses.
Traditional Incandescent Bulbs
Traditional Christmas lights are little incandescent bulbs. They come in two major flavors. “Mini” Christmas lights are the type with tiny little cylindrical bulbs that look like tiny fairy-sized glass candles. Each little bulb on a mini strand uses 0.43W of electricity.
100-Count 25-Foot Christmas Light Strands
These green-wire, mini incandescent bulbs have been the most popular style of Christmas light for decades.
The larger and more bulbous Christmas lights are C7 and C9 bulbs. C7 bulbs are about an inch and a half long, have an E12 base, and use 4-5W of energy per bulb. In addition to Christmas light strands, C7 bulbs are also used in night lights and the electric window candles people put up around the holidays.
Incadescent C9 25-Bulb 25-Foot Strands
Although they come in plain warm white, C9 bulbs in multi-color was one of the most popular mid-20th century styles in America and remains a favorite for the retro look.
C9 bulbs have the same profile, just a little wider and between 2-2.5 inches long, use an E17 base, and they use 7W or 10W per bulb, depending on the design. Because of their increased size, C9 is a much more popular size for Christmas lights as the lights stand out better at a distance than their smaller cousins.
You can find LED Christmas lights in the same configuration as traditional lights, just with the incandescent filament swapped out for an LED bulb.
As a general rule, you’ll find that LED lights consume 1/10th of the power of their incandescent counterparts. Just like a 75W-equivalent LED light bulb uses about 7.5W of power, the power consumption of the much smaller Christmas lights is scaled back similarly.
LED 200-bulb 65-foot Strand Mini Lights
Forget hunting for burned out bulbs, these long lasting LEDs are cheaper to run and easier to maintain.
So with that in mind, you can expect that LED mini Christmas lights will consume about 0.05W per bulb (whether the bulb has a traditional long cylindrical shape or is just a little button shape doesn’t matter in terms of power consumption).
LED 100-Bulb 65-foot Strands
LEDs make C9 bulb strands more economical by lowering the operating cost and allowing for more bulbs per strand.
C7 and C9 bulbs’ power consumption is slightly higher, but only marginally so. You can expect the new bulbs to consume about 0.2W per bulb. There is little difference between the two sizes when dealing with LEDs than the shape of the bulb—the LED component is typically identical.
Comparing the Two Side-by-Side
The different kinds of bulbs and their power consumption outlined, let’s put all the bulbs (and the traditional size strands and fixtures you’d find them on) side by side. This will let you easily compare the kind of strand you have against the kind of strand you’re considering.
We’re using the national average of 0.12 cents per kWh for our estimated hourly operational cost. Our daily cost is based on the assumption that you’ll be operating the lights for 6 hours per day (from 6 PM to midnight is a pretty common window for holiday lights).
Our seasonal cost is based on the assumption that you run your holiday lights for 45 days—from around Thanksgiving to the first week of January, as many people traditionally do.
We’ve left the hourly cost unrounded because the numbers are so small, but for the sake of readability and easy comparison, we’ve rounded the seasonal cost to the nearest penny.
|Light Type||Total Watts||Hourly Cost||Seasonal Cost|
|Incandescent Mini String (100 Bulbs)||43W||$0.00516||$1.39|
|Incandescent Mini String (50 Bulbs)||21.5W||$0.00258||$0.70|
|Incandescent C7 String (25 Bulbs)||125W||$0.015||$4.05|
|Incandescent C9 String (25 Bulbs)||175W||$0.021||$5.67|
|Incandescent Window Candle (1 Bulb)||7W||$0.00084||$0.23|
|LED Mini String (100 Bulbs)||5W||$0.0006||$0.16|
|LED Mini String (50 Bulbs)||2.5W||$0.0003||$0.08|
|LED C7 String (25 Bulbs)||5W||$0.0006||$0.16|
|LED C9 String (25 Bulbs)||5W||$0.0006||$0.16|
|LED Window Candle (1 Bulb)||0.7W||$0.000084||$0.02|
When you see it all laid out like that, it really showcases how you save across the board, especially if you’re a fan of big flashy C7 and C9 bulbs.
A single strand of traditional C9 bulbs costs over five bucks to run for the holiday period, but an equivalent LED strand only costs about 16 cents.
And Here’s What That Looks Like In The Real World
If you compare single strands to single strands, it’s obvious LED bulbs use less electricity and, therefore, save you money. But it’s hard to visualize exactly how much money without tallying up how many strands you use per season.
While you’ll have to crunch the numbers for your home to see your potential savings, I’ll run through the cost savings using my home as an example. Your lighting might be more subdued or extravagant than mine—or even permanently installed—but you’ll get the idea.
One way to speed up your calculations is to tally up the watts and then convert it to the cost-per-hour (instead of fussing with the individual strand operating costs seen in the table above, like $0.021 per hour). When dealing with a bunch of different items, it’s just faster to add up the watts per hour for the whole pool and then calculate the cost.
We detail how to calculate your power usage in our guide to measuring your energy use, but here’s the relevant crash course.
Once you total up all the watts, multiply that by the number of hours you plan on running the setup. If you’re planning to run it for 6 hours a day for 45 days, that’s 270 hours. That’ll give you the watt-hours
Then divide by 1000 to convert the watt hours to kilowatt hours (which is what your power company bills you in). And then, simply multiply that by the cost you pay per kWh, such as $0.12. Here’s a sample equation using those variables:
(Total Watts * 270 / 1000) * $0.12 = Total Seasonal Cost
You can always adjust the equation to any number of hours you’d like. If you want to know how much it would cost to run your Christmas lights all year long, for example, swap out 270 with 2,190.
Now, to compare the cost difference between incandescent and LED under real-world conditions, let’s use my home as an example. To avoid burying you in paragraphs describing the arrangement of my holiday decorations, I’ll keep it concise.
Indoors, we have 13 window candles with C7 bulbs and 7 strands of 100-bulb mini lights on the Christmas tree. Outdoors we have 28 strands of 100-bulb mini lights when you tally up all the trees, garlands, wreaths, and such. All told, that’s 13 C7 candles and 35 100-bulb mini light strands.
If we tally those up as if they were all incandescent, it comes to 1,596 watts. Across the 45 days of evening run time, it would cost us $51.71.
If we tally those up as if they were LEDs, it would be 184.1 watts, costing $5.96 over the same period. Roughly that 1/10th operating cost we talked about earlier. Switching to LEDs will save us about $45 a year.
And remember, changing from traditional C9 bulbs to LED C9 bulbs is a massive saving over switching from incandescent mini bulbs. Let’s say that all 28 strands of my outdoor bulbs were 25-bulb high-statement incandescent C9 strings instead of more petite mini bulbs.
Switching from incandescent to LED would drop my total exterior lighting wattage down from 4,900 watts to 140 watts and reduce the bill for the exterior lights from $158.76 to $4.54. Switching over would save around $153 yearly just on the outdoor illumination alone.
You can run the numbers for your particular setup, but no matter how many or few light strands you have, you should expect to reduce your bill substantially. With LED lights, you can live your best Clark Griswold life without relying on a Christmas bonus to pay the electric bill.
Oh, and speaking of using technology to optimize your holiday lighting, don’t forget to pick up some smart plugs. Why waste money running your lights when it’s not dark out or because you set the timer wrong? I have all my outdoor and indoor smart plugs set to automatically turn on at dusk, so no matter how the length of the day shifts, they’re always right on time.
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