How to Reduce the Cost of Holiday Lights

It's possible to be energy efficient and lower your expenses without sacrificing holiday cheer.

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Decorating your home for the holidays does not have to cost a fortune, according to regional and national energy experts. Reduce your holiday budget and your carbon footprint by illuminating indoor and outdoor spaces with solar, battery-operated or LED electric holiday lights.

Relative to standard holiday lights, LEDs can reduce energy costs by up to 98 percent. LED lights generate significantly less heat than standard bulbs and are cooler and safer for home use.

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LED lights, which are sold by local utility companies and traditional retail stores, are more expensive than standard holiday lights. But energy savings pay for the cost of the LED lights after three holiday seasons, according to industry data.

For instance, for mini LED lights cost about 30 cents to operate over 500 hours versus $1.30 cents for standard lights. Larger holiday LED lights costs 7 cents to operate over 500 hours, versus $8 to $11 dollars for standard lights of the same size. LED light bulbs use 10 times less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs. LEDs are now featured in a variety of holiday decorations, including snowmen, icicle strings and tree lights, according to Florida Power & Light (FPL), a regional utility company.

Other low-cost options include solar lights, which collect energy from the sun during the day and glow at night. “Consider changing out driveway lighting with solar-powered lights to make your home a festive and energy-efficient oasis year round,” recommend FPL experts.

“Solar energy is clean, unlimited, secure, and sustainable. And, because the fuel is free (sunlight), it is not subject to price increases or volatility,” according to a statement from the Department of Energy. The federal government offers a free publication about solar energy called Get Your Power from the Sun, which is available at www.energy.gov.

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The Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based energy coalition, also offers several energy-saving tips for the holidays:

• Use timers with holiday lights. Limit light displays to six hours every evening. “Leaving lights on 24 hours a day will quadruple your energy costs and create four times the pollution,” according to a statement from the Alliance.

• Disconnect holiday lights before bedtime and whenever you leave the home.

• Go low-tech. “Supplement your holiday displays with ornaments such as wreaths, ribbons and other decorations that don't consume energy,” FPL suggests.

Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a special financial news contributor for Wise Bread. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”