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How Much Christmas Lights Cost to Run for a Month

By Rebecca Lake · October 11, 2023 · 8 minute read

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How Much Christmas Lights Cost to Run for a Month

Many people love showing their holiday spirit with Christmas lights, whether just a strand of twinkle lights around a window or going all-out like the Griswolds.

While these lights are festive, it’s worth noting that they aren’t free. In fact, the cost of running holiday lights rose 13% last year, costing the average household $15.48 vs. $13.41 the prior year.

In this economy, every dollar can count, so if you want to learn how much it costs to run Christmas lights for a month and how to reduce that expense, read on.

Here, you’ll learn more about:

•   How much do Christmas lights cost to run?

•   How much does it cost to run Christmas lights for a month?

•   How can you save money on your holiday light electric bill?

Factors Affecting the Cost of Running Christmas Lights

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. Lowering your energy bill may require a multifaceted approach.

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How Much Electricity Do Christmas Lights Use?

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 mini LED lights, you’ll normally have 50 bulbs for a 14-foot strand and 100 bulbs per 32-foot strand.

•   With mini icicle lights, you often have 300 bulbs for a 26-foot strand.

Here’s how the average wattage for each one compares, though note that incandescent bulbs stopped being manufactured and sold in August 2023 (some people may still own and use strands of these, however):

•   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.

LEDs possibly lowering energy costs by up to 90% vs. the other options. Switching to LEDs could be a way to save money daily during the holidays.

Also note that 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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Cost of Running Christmas Lights

So how much do Christmas lights cost to run for a month? Or longer? 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 $0.17 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, but prices may be significantly higher or lower in different parts of the country due to cost of living differences.

If you live in Connecticut, for example, you might pay an average of $0.21 cents per kilowatt hour. People living in Florida, however, might pay an average of $0.11 cents per kilowatt hour. Residents of Hawaii typically pay the most, currently spending $0.32 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

Calculating the Cost of Christmas Lights

Now, for how much does it cost to run Christmas lights? Here’s a 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 a price of $0.14 cents per kilowatt hour. Here’s what you’d pay for each one:

Bulb Type

Hourly Cost

Daily Cost

Monthly 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, would likely spend the least, since they are paying just over nine cents per kilowatt hour (currently the lowest rate in the US) and they would be using energy-saving bulbs. Meanwhile, Hawaiians who opt for incandescent bulbs would probably spend the most, since their bulbs use a considerable amount of power and they currently pay the highest national rate for energy of almost 33 cents per kilowatt hour.

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Tips to Save on Your Christmas Lighting Bill

If you’re looking for ways to lower your energy bill when you start plugging in your holiday lights, follow this advice.

Embracing Energy-Efficient LEDs

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.

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.

So if you still have some incandescent bulbs in your box of Christmas decorations, you may want to think about swapping them out for LEDs. (You won’t find incandescents made or sold in the US anymore either.)

Benefits of Solar-Powered Outdoor Lights

You might consider using solar-powered outdoor lights on your house over the holidays. These strands depend upon energy collected by small panels that gather and hold energy from the sun during the day.

These strands don’t plug in and draw no electrical power. So they can be especially easy and economical to use over the holidays.

Battery-Operated Lights for Smaller Displays

If you like to create smaller displays, you might consider battery-powered strands of lights. There is a wide range of how long these lights will stay illuminated, but this can be a good unplugged option to try for small-scale displays. While you do have to pay for the batteries, it can be cheaper than plugging in lights for weeks on end.

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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.

Having the right banking partner, such as one with budgeting tools, can also help make tackling high utility bills after the holidays easier.

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FAQ

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 90% less energy while lasting longer. LED Christmas lights also emit less heat and can be easier to install than other types of holiday lighting.

Do Christmas lights raise your light bill?

Holiday lights can raise your electric bill during the winter months. How much it costs to run Christmas lights can depend on several things, including the type of bulbs used, how many light strands you’re running, how long you turn the lights on for, 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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