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How Much Electricity Do Christmas Lights Use? Facts & FAQ

Christmas lights on front window

Many of us love nothing more than putting on a massive, brightly lit display during the festive season. But whether you have a single tree with a couple of lengths of Christmas tree lights or you go all out with decorations, it pays to know how much electricity you are consuming every time you switch your display on.

Although the exact amount of electricity Christmas lights use does depend on the type of lights in question and whether you use incandescent or LED lights, you can expect a single string of small tree lights to use around 40 watts of electricity. A small set of outdoor tree bulbs can use as much as 150 watts and a giant, illuminated Santa uses approximately 250 watts. Icicle lights, which admittedly look fantastic, could be using 500 watts or more per set.

So, while powering the lights on your tree might only cost a few dollars over the Christmas period, if you have a veritable Santa’s grotto of an illuminated display, you could be facing a bill of a thousand dollars or more before you can take your decorations down.

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Indoor Lights and Decorations

Indoor lights don’t need to be too powerful. The bulbs are usually quite small and come in strings or strands of 100. One string will use around 25 watts.

If you have a 7-foot tree and assume 100 lights per foot, that means that you need seven sets and will consume a total of 25 watts. If you have the lights on 6 hours a day, that’s 150 watts per day, which is 4,500 watts per month, equivalent to 4.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month. If you have your display up for a month and a half, that’s just under 7 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Electricity prices vary, but at 15 cents per kilowatt hour, that means that your tree lights will cost you just over a dollar for the whole Christmas period. But every illuminated decoration you hang will add to your electricity consumption.

Outdoor Lights

Man Fixing Christmas Lights
Image By: Tanja Esser, Shutterstock

Whereas indoor lights are relatively small, outdoor lights need to be bigger and brighter to be visible. If you were to hang small indoor tree bulbs on your outdoor tree, you wouldn’t be able to see them. For this reason, most outdoor trees use large bulbs that are similar to those used in traditional indoor light fittings.

One hundred outdoor lights will use around 500 watts of energy, which is 135 kilowatts, costing $20 for the season. If you have multiple sets of lights, you will need to multiply this figure by the number of sets you have. An outdoor tree might require several sets of lights and if you are putting lights on multiple trees, it could cost you $200 or more for one year.

Icicle lights look pretty thanks to the way they twinkle and drip, but this display comes at a cost. A set of 100 icicle lights uses 500 watts, which is another $20 to add to your electricity bill.

LED vs. Incandescent

All the figures above assume the use of incandescent bulbs, but there is a wide selection of LED displays on the market today and LED bulbs can be up to nine times cheaper to run, although there are mixed reviews on how well they actually illuminate a tree or area.

While they do cost a little more to buy, though, LED lights are safer because they do not get as hot, and they can last 10 times as long as incandescent lights before they need replacing. They also cost a fraction of the price to run.

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How They Compare

Christmas Lights in Box Organizer
Image By: Lost_in_the_Midwest, Shutterstock

Different types of Christmas lights have different electricity consumption rates, but the figures above show that if you have more than just a few illuminated decorations, the cost can add up very quickly. Here are some of the most common types of incandescent Christmas lights and the power each display consumes:

Decoration Power
100 Indoor Tree Lights 25W
25 Outdoor Tree Lights 125W
Outdoor Icicle Lights 500W
Giant Illuminated Santa 500W

How Much Does It All Cost?

The amount your Christmas lights cost to run will depend on the power they use, how many hours a day you have them on, how many days you leave them up, and the amount you pay per kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed.

A minimally decorated house with no external lights could cost as little as $30 for the whole festive period, while a house with multiple lit outdoor trees, icicle lights, and several large, illuminated figures could cost several hundred dollars. If you are looking to save money, try turning the lights on a little later in the evening and off a little earlier at night.

Is It OK to Leave Christmas Lights on All Night?

Christmas lights, especially those that utilize incandescent bulbs, can get very hot, and they are typically next to materials like wood and paper, which can catch fire easily. The longer the lights are left on, the hotter they get, and the greater the risk that they start a fire.

As such, owners are advised to turn off all Christmas lights at night, ideally when they go to bed, to prevent a house fire during the night when it will go undetected until it’s too late. What’s more, if you don’t turn the lights off until morning, that could potentially double the amount of electricity that is being used by the festive decorations.

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Christmas lights are a big part of the festive celebration. They bring bright colors and joy to most people, but they do cost money to run. While a single set of indoor lights might not amount to much electricity over the 5-week period, multiple sets of tree lights on several trees, including outdoor trees, means that consumption quickly escalates. Add icicle lights and large illuminated displays and this can multiply consumption significantly.

If you’re looking to reduce your electricity consumption, get LED lights rather than incandescent ones, switch the lights off when you go to bed, and consider getting rid of one or two of your large displays. It won’t reduce the effectiveness of your festive display too much, but it will reduce your energy use.

Featured Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay


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