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Small personal action… holiday lights!

- December 4, 2010 - 0 Comments

While Very Big Discussions are underway at COP16 in Cancún (México), let’s take a moment to consider Small Personal Action.  Treaties and policy can be created, and laws passed accordingly, but if the affected populations (that means you) can’t do the simple stuff, what hope is there to make a dent in GHG emissions?

So, ’tis the season to talk about your festive lighting displays inside and outside your house.  Replacing your old, incandescent holiday lights pays for itself in one month.  Do it today and you’ll be completely paid back in your next utility bill.

At our home, we don’t do many Christmas lights outside, just three strings of 25 of old-fashioned lights around the gutter in front (C9-1/4 bulbs in official electrical-speak). Alternating red and green lights if you want to know. We wanted to put up some lights along the back gutter. We hadn’t done both front and back in a few years and didn’t want to do all white, which was all that was left after using all the reds and greens for the front… so off to the local store to buy lights for the back.

For USD 9.97 each (on sale), we bought 3 strings of C6 base, flame-shaped, LED lights, 50 lights/string (one every 4 inches).  After a couple evenings, I got out the Kill-o-Watt meter to check the power usage. In the front of our house, the three strings of “old-fashioned” lights–75 bulbs total–were running about 565-570W total, which works out to 7.5W/bulb. The label says they’re 7W bulbs, so that matches up. Since we have our lights on about 5 hrs a night on a timer, it’s around $0.50/night in northern California.  (Residential PG&E electricity rates vary from USD 0.12 to 0.40 per kWh depending on how much total you use each month; I used an average rate for my calculation.)  (

Going around back, I checked on the three strings back there. 6W. Total. Six. For 150 bulbs.

I thought the meter was broken, so I checked a 9W CFL and it read 8W. I checked a lamp with two 25W CFLs and it read 47W, so the absurdly low reading wasn’t the meter. Even allowing for a bit of rounding error, it’s even less than the label on the box. Sitting in the house and looking at all the light and realizing it’s coming from only 6W is just amazing. The LED lights pay for themselves in three weeks, not quite in the Twelve Days of Christmas, but close.

Small Personal Action:  Replace your incandescent holiday/Christmas lights.  Today.  They last longer, save you money, and reduce GHG emissions.

P.S.  Yes, I went out and bought more LED lights and retired the old strings in front (into the recycle).

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