Deck the Halls with Efficient Energy and Climate Conscious Shopping

A house decorated with christmas lights
December 19, 2019

With the holiday season in full swing, Christmas and Hanukah lights can be seen all over our homes, stores, and workplaces. They warm our hearts and bring joy to the season but can also bring a spike in our energy consumption.

Overall, holiday lights in America account for about 6.63 billion kilowatt hours every year, according to a 2015 blog from the Center for Global Development. This is more than the yearly national electricity consumption of some developing countries such as Nepal and Cambodia.

You probably have at least one person in the neighborhood who goes all out with the holiday lights. If you crunch the numbers, those big displays can cost upwards of $1,600 to light during a 45-day holiday season, assuming you pay around the national average for kwH. Most people aren’t creating a Clark Griswold light show, but even the average Christmas tree needs about 1,000 lights (10 strands). At 45 watts per strand that means your tree is using about the same amount of power as your 55-inch flat screen TV.

There are some easy ways to make more conscious choices about your holiday lights this year. Here are a few suggestions from the Department of Energy and Smarter House:

  1. Switch to LED lights. Light-emitting-diode (LED) lights are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and are available for almost all holiday light products. This can save you on your energy bill and decrease the risk of sparking a fire.
  2. Set a timer. The lights don’t need to be on all night!
  3. Use a power strip. A power strip can help eliminate small amounts of energy that are used even when electronics are turned off but still plugged into a wall.
  4. Turn off ambient lights. You probably don’t need to have overhead lighting on as well as the Christmas tree to keep the room lit.
  5. Decorate without electricity. There are lots of ways to liven up the home for the holidays without using lighting.

Other suggestions include turning down the thermostat when guests are over since the home will be filled with extra body heat. You can also lessen your overall environmental impact this season but re-gifting unused presents, buying non-electric toys, and giving non-material presents such as a gym membership or tickets to a show.

In addition to the energy use associate with holiday lights, gift giving can come with a big climate and energy price tag. Online retailers, such as Amazon, can have an oversized climate impact. While one-click shopping and two-day delivery makes the holidays easier, it isn’t totally without cost. The majority of trucks that delivery goods are powered on diesel or other fossil fuels, and increased shipments during the end of December means more trucks on the road. Wherever possible, try to substitute online purchases for in-store local shops or non-material gifts.

When cozying up with friends and family this holiday season, take a minute to think about how a few small changes can have a positive effect on your energy use and climate impact.

Our blog highlights the research, opinions, and insights of individual authors. It does not represent the voice of the Kleinman Center.