Cost of lavish Christmas lights display offset by simple measures

December 20, 2002

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 20, 2002 -- If you're wondering just how much your neighborhood Clark Griswold is paying to brighten the town with Christmas lights visible from outer space, the answer varies significantly from one part of the country to another.

In Knoxville, for example, a display on the order of Griswold's in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" -- 100 strings each with 100 miniature lights (41 watts per string), one 100-watt Santa figure and a 450-watt set of floodlights illuminating a nativity scene - would generate added costs of $63. That's assuming the lights (totaling 4,650 watts) are left on seven hours per day for 30 days.

A New Yorker with the same display would be paying an extra $136 to spread holiday cheer, while a jolly homeowner in Hawaii would see an extra $160 on his or her electric bill. At the other end of the spectrum, a homeowner in Seattle would be paying just $50 for the same display, while a homeowner in Idaho Falls would be paying just an extra $53.

Whatever the added expense, homeowners can offset most or all of the additional cost of a light display with some simple energy-saving techniques in other areas of their home that will provide year-round cost savings. Research within the Buildings Technology Center of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated a variety of ways homeowners can save money on energy bills.

"There are several simple and low-cost measures that a homeowner can take to realize anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars of savings per year," said Mike Gettings, a researcher in ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division.

Looking at electricity rates around the nation, the highest (cents per kilowatt-hour/kwh) are in Alaska and Hawaii (Pacific Noncontiguous), where residents pay an average of 14.42 cents/kwh, while the lowest rates are in the East South Central, which is made up of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. There, the average rate is 6.43 cents/kwh.

A more modest light display of 10 strings of 100 miniature lights and one 100-watt lighted Santa (510 watts total) in various parts of the country would cost as follows:

-- New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont): $22.52 (11.17 cents per kwh);
-- Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania): $22.96 (11.39 cents per kwh);
-- East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin): $16.57 (8.22 cents per kwh);
-- West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota): $14.82 (7.35 cents per kwh);
-- South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Colombia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia): $15.52 (7.7 cents per kwh);
-- East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee): $12.96; (6.43 cents per kwh);
-- West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas): $15.66 (7.77 cents per kwh);
-- Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming): $14.96 (7.42 cents per kwh);
-- Pacific Contiguous (California, Oregon and Washington): $17.60 (8.73 cents per kwh); and
-- Pacific Noncontiguous (Alaska and Hawaii): $29 (14.42 cents per kwh).

Moving indoors, in Knoxville, for example, the cost of lighting a Christmas tree with six strings of 100 mini-lights (41 watts per string) would be about $3.35 for the month. In New York, that cost would be $7.21.

ORNL researchers have found that a homeowner can reduce his or her energy bill by as much as $50 per year simply by turning the water heater setting down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, when it's time to replace the water heater, installing a residential heat pump water heater is an option that will pay the homeowner back with lower monthly bills in less than three years. The heat pump water heater was developed at ORNL and received an R&D 100 award in 2000 from R&D Magazine.

Another way to save money on energy bills and one with less initial cost than a heat pump water heater is to add air sealing around windows and doors, which can save up to $135 per year in the Northeast, $119 in the Midwest, $38 in the West and $74 in the South. Other cost-saving measures with initial costs ranging from just a few dollars to a few hundred include adding attic insulation, installing a programmable thermostat for heating systems, installing low-flow shower heads, installing wall insulation and replacing incandescent light bulbs with more efficient fluorescent bulbs.
-end-
ORNL is a multiprogram facility managed for DOE by UT-Battelle.

NOTE TO EDITORS:
You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at http://www.ornl.gov/news.

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Related Energy Articles from Brightsurf:

Energy System 2050: solutions for the energy transition
To contribute to global climate protection, Germany has to rapidly and comprehensively minimize the use of fossil energy sources and to transform the energy system accordingly.

Cellular energy audit reveals energy producers and consumers
Researchers at Gladstone Institutes have performed a massive and detailed cellular energy audit; they analyzed every gene in the human genome to identify those that drive energy production or energy consumption.

First measurement of electron energy distributions, could enable sustainable energy technologies
To answer a question crucial to technologies such as energy conversion, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Liverpool in the UK have figured out a way to measure how many 'hot charge carriers' -- for example, electrons with extra energy -- are present in a metal nanostructure.

Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.

Scientists: Estonia has the most energy efficient new nearly zero energy buildings
A recent study carried out by an international group of building scientists showed that Estonia is among the countries with the most energy efficient buildings in Europe.

Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.

Harvesting energy from walking human body Lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester develop
A research team led by Professor Wei-Hsin Liao from the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed a lightweight smart materials-based energy harvester for scavenging energy from human motion, generating inexhaustible and sustainable power supply just from walking.

How much energy do we really need?
Two fundamental goals of humanity are to eradicate poverty and reduce climate change, and it is critical that the world knows whether achieving these goals will involve trade-offs.

New discipline proposed: Macro-energy systems -- the science of the energy transition
In a perspective published in Joule on Aug. 14, a group of researchers led by Stanford University propose a new academic discipline, 'macro-energy systems,' as the science of the energy transition.

How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.

Read More: Energy News and Energy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.