The Cost of Running Christmas Lights and How to Save Money

For many families, the holiday season may not be complete without a festive lighting display. Whether you prefer to go full Griswold or stick with something more minimalist, lights can help to infuse your home with holiday cheer both inside and out.

But how much does it cost to run Christmas lights?

The short answer is that it depends. What you pay for Christmas lights could be significantly more — or less — than your neighbors’ bill. Breaking down the typical cost of running Christmas lights can help with saving on your utility bill over the holidays.

Here, you’ll learn more about:

•   How Christmas lights impact your electric bill

•   Which kinds of lights cost the most

•   How to save money on your electric bill

Christmas Lights and Your Electric Bill

Running Christmas lights uses energy, which can translate to higher utility bills. How much of an increase you see in your electric bill can depend on a number of factors, including:

•   How many strands of lights you use

•   The type of bulbs used in each strand

•   The number of hours you run your lights each day

•   How many days you run Christmas lights for

Where you live and what you pay per kilowatt hour for electricity.

All of these things can influence how large your Christmas lights electric bill turns out be once January rolls around. Understanding what you could wind up paying can help if affordably celebrating the holidays is your goal.

Keep in mind that other costs can drive up electric bills during the holidays, apart from Christmas lights. If you’re using the oven more often to prepare holiday meals, for example, that can result in a higher electric bill. You may also see a bigger bill if colder weather means the heat is kicking on more often or your kids are home all day using electronics more while school is out.

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Do Christmas Lights Use a Lot of Energy?

The amount of energy used by Christmas lights can depend on the type of bulb and the number of bulbs per strand. The most popular options for Christmas lights include incandescent mini lights, mini LED lights and ceramic C7 lights.

So which type of bulb uses the most energy?

The simplest answer is to look at the wattage of Christmas lights, based on bulb size and number of bulbs per strand. For example:

•   With C7 lights, for instance, you’re typically getting 25 lights per strand.

•   With incandescent mini lights and mini LED lights, you’ll normally have 100 bulbs per strand.

Here’s how the average wattage for each one compares:

•   C7 lights: 5 watts

•   C9 incandescent lights (2-¼” long): 7 watts

•   Mini incandescent lights: 0.4 watts

•   Mini LED lights: 0.07 watts

Between those three options, mini LED lights draw the least amount of energy per strand while C7 lights draw the most. You’d need four strands of C7 lights to equal the same number of bulbs in just one strand of incandescent or LED mini lights. This is important to understand because it can affect the number of kilowatt hours used and your overall energy costs.

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Family Fixing A Christmas Tree Stock

Cost of Christmas Lights to Utility Bill

Calculating your estimated cost of running Christmas lights matters when trying to lower your electric bill during the winter months. Again, what you’ll pay can depend on a variety of factors, including where you live and how much electricity costs.

The average household pays $0.14 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, but costs may be significantly higher or lower in different parts of the country. Most people are likely paying more this year than they used to as the cost of living increases and people can’t always protect against inflation.

If you live in New England, for example you might pay an average of $0.26 cents per kilowatt hour. People living in the East South Central region, however, pay an average of $0.14 cents per kilowatt hour. Residents of Hawaii are likely to pay the most, at $0.46 cents per kilowatt hour.

Here’s how to figure out how much you’ll pay for Christmas lighting:

•   Multiply the wattage of the lights by the hours per day the lights will be on, then divide by 1,000 to find kilowatt hours per day

•   Multiply kilowatt hours per day by your cost of electric usage to get the cost per day

•   Multiply the cost per day by the number of days your lights will be on

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Calculating the Cost of Christmas Lights

So how much does each type of light cost?

Let’s look at what it would cost to run C7 lights, C9 and mini incandescent lights, and mini LED lights for six hours a day for 30 days, using the average of $0.14 cents per kilowatt hour. Here’s what you’d pay for each one:

Bulb TypeHourly CostDaily CostMonthly Cost
C7 (25 bulbs, 5 watts per bulb)$0.0175$0.105$3.15
C9 (25 bulbs, 7 watts per bulb)$0.025$0.15$4.50
Incandescent Mini Lights (100 bulbs, 0.45 watts per bulb)$0.0063$0.0378$1.13
Mini LED Lights (100 bulbs, 0.07 watts per bulb)$0.0042$0.0252$0.76

Keep in mind that these costs are for just one strand of lights, as noted. If you string together several strands on your tree, frame your windows with lights, and then drape your shrubs or street-facing windows outdoors with more, your costs will of course go up.

Also, in terms of what the average person spends on Christmas lights, it can vary by a state’s cost of living, as well as by what kind of bulbs are used. Louisiana residents who run LED lights, for example, tend to spend the least, averaging $8.18 per month. Meanwhile, Hawaiians who opt for incandescent bulbs spend $64.55 per month on average running seasonal lights.

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Do LED Christmas Lights Save Money?

As mentioned, the wattage of Christmas lights plays an important part in determining how much you pay for electric bills over the holidays. Between C7 lights, incandescent lights and LED lights, LED lights are highly energy-efficient. According to the Department of Energy, residential LEDs that are ENERGY STAR rated use up to 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lights.

As the previous example suggests, people who use LED Christmas lights tend to pay far less than those using incandescent bulbs or C7 lights. So it follows that an easy way to save money on your electric bill and reduce energy usage would be to use mini LED lights as often as possible. Aside from that, LED bulbs emit less light and are less likely to overload sockets, making them a potentially safer option for Christmas lighting compared to other types of bulbs.

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The Takeaway

A higher-than-usual electric bill can put a damper on your holiday celebrations. Estimating your potential costs beforehand can help you manage utility expenses. And you can decide whether it’s worth it to invest a little money in upgrading your current Christmas lights to energy-efficient options.


Do LED Christmas lights use a lot of electricity?

Compared to C7 lights or incandescent mini lights, LED Christmas lights use the least amount of energy. Specifically, they can use up to 75% less energy while lasting 25 times longer. LED Christmas lights also emit less heat and can be easier to install than other types of holiday lighting.

Woman Smiling At The Laptop In Front Of A Christmas Tree Stock

Do Christmas lights raise your light bill?

Christmas lights can raise your electric bill during the winter months. How much your bill increases can depend on several things, including the type of bulbs used, how many light strands you’re running and the average cost of energy per kilowatt hour in your area. Using timers and switching to energy-efficient bulbs can be helpful for reducing your Christmas lights electric bill.

Do Christmas trees use a lot of electricity?

Christmas trees can use a lot of electricity, depending on the type of lights you use, the number of strands on the tree, and how long you leave your tree plugged in each day. Using mini LED lights can reduce electric costs for Christmas tree lighting, while using C7 bulbs to light your tree could result in a higher energy bill.

Photo credit: iStock/BanksPhotos

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This article originally appeared in SoFi.