Shining a Light on the Cost of Christmas Lights

Christmas lights and Christmas decorations are big business in the United States. According to industry analyst Ibisworld, Americans spent approximately $8.25 billion on Christmas decorations in 2008, and you can be sure a lot of those billions went to millions of light shows across the country.

While the lights themselves may seem cheap, the truth is they burn up a lot of energy, and the more you’re using, the more you’re spending.

Go Banking Rates decided to take a look at some of the various Christmas lights currently on the market, and calculate how much of an impact they have on a typical utility bill. Electricity prices vary across the country (to know how much it costs in your area, go here), but the national average is, according to the Department of Energy, about 12 cents per hour.

To determine how much your string of Christmas lights will end up costing you, you need to know the wattage of each individual bulb. For mini-lights that’s about .45 watts. A string of 25 lights, therefore, would equal 0.01125 total kilowatts. Multiply that by the national average price of electricity (.12 a kilowatt) and you get your total: $0.0013 per hour.

Putting it in more usable terms, let’s say you have 10 strands of 25 lights. That’s 250 lights that use $0.0135 per hour. If you’re like many people, you leave them on for more than an hour per day, so, say, six hours. Six hours at $0.0135 per hour comes to $0.081 per day. Leave your lights on six hours a day for the 31 days of December, and you’re looking at an extra $2.51 added to your utilities bill.

For a handy online calculator, visit this site and enter the data from your set of Christmas lights.

Typical Christmas Lights: about $5 per strand

For all of December: $.50 extra for 10 strands

You bought these lights on sale and they’re probably tangled in a box. Whether blue, colored or simple white, most homes use these kinds of Christmas lights. These burn out quickly, which is a waste of money, but they’re also very cost-effective to replace.

For the strand selected here, the bill would be about $0.0027 per hour.

White LED Christmas Lights: about $13 per strand

For all of December: $.41 extra for 10 strands

As Americans move towards greater energy efficiency, LED lights are all the rage. While it may save you more money to use LED bulbs for your everyday needs, if you buy LED Christmas lights it will probably take you a while for the savings to show up on your holiday electric bill: LED lights generally cost over twice as much as incandescent bulbs.

They last much longer, however, and use much less energy than typical Christmas light bulbs. Definitely a good long-term investment which pays off over time.

For the set chosen here, expect to pay $0.0022 per hour, using the national average price of electricity.

Icicle Lights: about $8 per strand


For all of December: $1 extra for 10 strands

One of the more popular Christmas light options are icicle lights. The model selected here should cost about $0.0054 per hour.

These look so pretty hanging off the the edge of your roof, but these lights are also the costliest on our list.

Expect to pay about $20 and up for an LED version of the icicle style. The price per hour for this higher-wattage model should be about $0.0055 per hour. That comes to $1.02 a month.

Solar-Powered Christmas Lights: about $17 per strand

For all of December: Free (as long as it’s sort of sunny)

Clearly, the cheapest way to go in the long run is solar powered lights — but you might want to factor in time spent clearing the solar panels of accumulated snow or ice.

Not only are these lights more cost-effective in the long term, but they’re fantastic for the environment.

Cost per hour: FREE!

How much do you pay for your Christmas lights? Do you have tips on how to save money on electricity costs?