There is something magical about Christmas lights. As a child, together with my family we used to explore the streets and hop on buses to see the amazing Christmas light displays around town. I recently felt that same childhood wonder watching Christmas fairy lights displayed over the canals in Delft, with their sparkle reflecting over the water. Christmas lights can embody the spirit of Christmas, but once Christmas has been and gone and the post-Christmas electricity bill rolls in, their sparkle can quickly fade. On Day 21, we are crunching the numbers on just how much Christmas lights cost to run over the festive season, exploring simple ways to reduce your electricity bill and detailing where to take your e-waste.

How much do Christmas lights cost to run?

Christmas lights have long been held the culprit of the Christmas electricity bill shock, however an analysis by Canstar suggests that if you are running light-emitting diode (LED) Christmas lights, they will only add $0.1-$1 to your electricity bill over the festive season. The cost will be higher if you are still using incandescent lights as they consume up to 90% more electricity than LEDs. For a closer examination, we compared incandescent lights with LEDs in the table below, for the same amount of bulbs. Running 1000 incandescent Christmas lights will cost $18 this season compared to only 50c for LEDs.

 Number of lightsWattageHourly cost24hour costSeasonal cost *
Incandescent Christmas lights1000400 W11.48c$2.76$17.79
LED Christmas lights100020 W0.34 c$0.08$0.53

*Assuming an electricity rate of 28.7 c/kWh, with lights being used 5 hours per night, each day of December for the entire month.

While many LEDs only consume 1.2W per 100 bulbs, some will use nearly twice as much electricity, particularly those which flash or twinkle. Although LED Christmas lights should only cost you a few dollars at most this Christmas, there are some things you can do to conserve energy and reduce your power bill:

  • Solar Christmas lights : I currently use solar Christmas lights which helps me save on power bills and prevents messy cables leading back to the house. Using the small solar panel (5.5V 100mA) and battery (3xAA 1.2V 800mAh Ni-MH), a day of sunlight powers my Christmas tree lights for approximately 6 hours each night . It is all automatic with a light sensor turning the lights on automatically each evening.
  • Use a timer: To prevent your Christmas coming on before sunset and shining till morning, you can set a timer (however the timer will still be drawing power so it is most energy efficient just to switch the lights on after sunset (7pm) and turn them off before you heading to bed)
  • Light displays: Flashing or twinkling lights consume more electricity. Therefore sticking with solid Christmas lights will save you energy. By strategically placing mirrors to reflect lights – you can add cool effects and give the illusion of double the amount of lights you have on display.

How to reduce power bills?

So if Christmas lights are not the primary cause of large electricity bills over Christmas – what is? Below we will explore how to save energy whilst cooking your Christmas feast, the impact of eliminating phantom power consumption by your household electrical appliances and setting the right temperature for your air conditioning.

1. Saving energy in the kitchen

Christmas is a big time for baking and cooking and there are many different strategies we can employ to save energy in the kitchen.

Oven tips for a stress-free Christmas ( see blog here)
  • Maximise oven space with batch cooking: With so much food to prepare over Christmas, it can be a good idea to make large batches of food in advance. That way you can maximise your oven space and not waste energy on heating up the whole oven for a few mince pies. Also by cutting your vegetables smaller – they will need less time and energy to cook. I know it is tempting to keep peeking at the turkey but limit the times you open your oven door. Also another tip is to turn the oven off a few minutes early, this saves energy and the heat will continue to cook the food as you plate up.
  • Cook with the right sized pan: A key strategy for using less energy and avoiding excess heat loss is to use the right sized pan for the job and keeping lids on the pans whenever possible. It may seem insignificant, but using a burner that is too large for your pan can waste a lot of energy. If you are restricted by the number of burners , turn down the flame so that it does not escape around the edges.
  • Love your appliances: Appliances tend to use less energy than the stove, so put the kettle on to have a cup of tea (only filling with the minimum amount of water needed as boiling more water than you need wastes energy). Switch off appliances when you’re not using them as they draw current just by being connected (see phantom power below for more!)
  • Defrosting and freezing food : Defrost food naturally overnight rather than relying on the microwave to do the job and allow warm foods to cool down before sticking them in the fridge and the freezer. These are just two simple ways to reduce the amount of energy used by kitchen appliances.
  • Seal the door: Doors are used to trap the heat in an oven and the cold in a fridge or freezer. Yet many people neglect the seals, creating a sneaky escape route. But how do you know if your seals are effective? Simply place a piece of paper between the door seals and the door. If the paper moves in and out easily then the seal isn’t doing its job. Try adjusting the door first, otherwise you’ll need to replace the seals.

2. Saving energy on cooling

This year is yet again a hot summer and the weather is predicted to be a hot 30 degrees Celsius on Christmas day. Running air conditioning to cool your home uses a lot of electricity and quickly increases your energy bills. However, by using your air conditioning more efficiently and switching it off and using fans to cool specific areas of your home whenever possible you can significantly reduce cooling costs. Also when you do have to reach for the air-conditioning remote, avoid setting the temperature too low. The setting should be between 24° and 27°C, increasing the temperature by just 1° can cut your cooling costs by 10 per cent. It might be worth installing a programmable thermostat for added convenience.

3. Saving energy on appliances

As we prepare the house to leave on holidays this year, one thing to keep in mind is turning off all the appliances. TVs, DVD players, computers, printers, radios and other electronic devices all use phantom power (energy used by appliances and electronics when they are turned off but still plugged in to a power outlet).

Canstar looked at the cost of standby power for 10 common household appliances and whilst the individual cost is minimal, it all adds up!

So what is the cost of leaving appliances on standby and how much could you save by turning off your appliances?

Image sourced from MrReid.org

ApplianceHourly standby usageHourly standby costAnnual standby cost*
Television (LCD)2.3 W0.06c$5.26
Microwave2.4 W0.07c$6.13
Games console5.4 W0.15c$13.14
DVD player1.5 W0.04c$3.50
Computer monitor1 W0.03c$2.62
Washing machine1-6W0.03-0.17c$2.62-$14.90
Clothes dryer2.6W0.08c$7
Dishwasher3W0.09c$7.88
Air conditioner2W0.05c$4.88
Wireless modem7-10W0.2-0.29c$17.50 - $25.40

*Assuming appliance left on standby mode 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with an electricity rate of 28.7c/kWh.

The figures in the data table sourced from Canstar approximate that Australian households spend $90 each year on wasted electricity. These values are associated with the cost of standby electricity when the appliance is plugged in, but switched off. That is often referred to as ‘passive standby’. ‘Active standby’ is when a device is turned on but not in use. For example, when a games console or DVD player is switched on, but no media is playing. Active standby mode can cost you five to ten times more in electricity than passive standby mode, so if your appliance is running, make sure you’re using it.

Phantom power is like as a leaky tap, even if it doesn’t bother you, it is still a complete waste of electricity and money. Below are a few tips from Canstar to reduce your standby electricity wastage including:

  • Turn off appliances at the wall: Switching off appliances at the point is a guaranteed way to ensure your electricity bill isn’t inflated by phantom power consumption.
  • Smart boards: Some electricity boards are able to detect when an appliance has entered standby mode and will cut its electricity feed entirely. It will also detect when you’re trying to turn the device back on and recommence its feed of electricity.
  • Energy efficient models: The energy efficiency star ratings system is intended to indicate electricity usage running costs, but it also helps provides a useful guide to standby costs. The more energy efficient an appliance is, the less electricity it will use on standby.
  • Adjust standby settings: You can modify the settings on some smart televisions and smart consoles to minimise their standby functionality. Use this to stop them from scanning for Wi-Fi when on standby.

Electricity providers

While we are talking about electricity bills – it is worth mentioning that there are a lot of different electricity providers out there now offering different Electricity deals. I recently changed providers and saved more than $100 on our last electricity bill. Check out this link to compare different deals in Queensland.

E-waste

Old Christmas lights, broken electronic toys, old batteries, new appliances replacing old ones – there can be a lot of e-waste generated after Christmas. If you are wondering where to take your e-waste during the Christmas period – Planet Ark maintains a database of television and computer drop-off points, find out more at Planet Ark – RecyclingNearYou.

Also, four organisations have been approved to deliver recycling services under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme. For more information, including details of the collection services and drop-off points they provide, visit their websites:

Image sourced from Smallbiztrends

Mobile Muster

Christmas time is a time when many people upgrade their phones. But what to do with your old phone? Mobile Muster is a government-accredited organisation delivering mobile phone and accessory recycling for over 21 years – to check out their website here to find a drop off point near you.

Batteries, lights & whitegoods

The Planet Ark database is a great resource to find out where to recycle other electrical products such as printer cartridges, batteries, light globes, paint, whitegoods and plastic. For example, batteries should never be put into your recycling or waste bin! Rechargeable batteries and lithium ion batteries are hazardous and could produce sparks that may start a fire in the trucks or recycling facility. This includes batteries in laptops, mobile phones, power tools and cameras.

Aldi supermarkets offer a free battery recycling service at all their Australian stores. Any brand of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) are accepted – simply drop your used batteries into the dedicated bins in store. For other services and for options for different battery types (eg buttons and 12 volts) see below:

Share with us

Today we have explored different ways for Christmas to shine whilst saving energy and detailed what to do with your unwanted electrical appliances when the festivities are over. We would love to hear about your personal energy-saving tips or any comments or suggestions that you have.

Today’s feature image was the magical Christmas lights in Delft, The Netherlands. With only a few days to go – we at Reframe Waste are wishing you safe travels if you are travelling over Christmas and we hope all your Christmas preparations are going well. 🙂

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