Consumer Exclusive: Christmas lights and your electric bill

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The holidays wouldn’t be the same without Christmas lights, but have you ever wondered how they impact your energy bill?

In this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive, we get answers and some money saving advice on how to celebrate the holidays, while going easy on your energy bill.

SAVING ON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

If you’re lucky, your neighborhood has a family like the Goeppers in Greenville. Becky and her son Will put out 80,000 lights, which are timed to music.

“Our typical Christmas season bill is about $400 more than our regular bill,” Mrs. Goeppers said.

For the less ambitious light lovers here’s the breakdown for the average December utiltiy cost (assuming the lights are on for about 5-6 hours a day).

  • A 7ft inside tree with about 500 lights will run you $11 bucks for the old incandescent, and just $3 for LED.
  • A12ft outside tree with large incandecent bulbs will cost about $120 versus just $30 for the same size LEDs.

David Hammond, with Laurens Electric, highlighted the three ways to save on Christmas lights:

“You want to look at the type of bulb, you want to use an LED. You want to look at the size of the bulb. Then you want to make sure you have everything on a timer,” Hammond said.

INFLATABLES

A timer could also come in handy for inflatables, which will run more than $3 a day in electricity when left on for long stretches ($90 a month).

FURNACE / THERMOSTAT

Of course the number one way to reduce that bill in the winter is a well maintained furnace with a thermostat setting close to 68 degrees, at least at night.

Changing out your filter makes your furnace run much more efficiently, which saves you money, and you should change them at least every 90 days. Writing the date on the filter can help you to remember when you changed it last.

A good rule of thumb is to change the filters at the start of every new season.

HOT WATER HEATER

Hammond also recommended you set your hot water heater at around 120 degrees (and no more than 140).

“We’ve discovered that one of the things that can really go wrong with a hot water heater is like if a burner burns out. Typically the other burner that’s in there is going to work extra hard and just constantly run, and you might see a spike of $100 to $200 in your utility bill,” he explained.

Laurens Electric (called LEC Connect) and Duke Energy have apps that not only show daily usage but will alert you if there is a spike. You can search for them in your app store.

OTHER ENERGY SUCKERS

Other electricity guzzlers include:

  • that old refrigerator or deep freeze in the garage
  • space heaters, especially ones left on for many hours a day (Can cost $125 a month)

Back at the Goeppers, they may have added more lights but they’re saving too!

“We probably had a quarter of the lights at our old house that we do here, and our bill was still $3-400 more than usual. When we lived there [we were] doing incandescent, so it’s a huge savings to do the LED. Huge,” she explained.

And both Goepper and her son agree, despite the cost, the payoff is well worth it.

“It takes time and effort but it’s really fun to do and it’s worth it in the end when you get to see it light up and make so many people happy,” 10-year-old Will Goepper said.

The moral of this holiday consumer story: some minor changes can really shave money off your monthly winter bill, especially switching to LEDs, which saves up to 70 to 80 percent!

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