Three Tips to Glow Up With Christmas Lights Without Wasting Energy

Are you still using incandescent bulbs for the holidays? You might be wasting energy. Here’s some tips to glow up while saving on your electricity bill, from an expert.

This time of year when the sky gets dark, many houses are aglow with Christmas lights.

In fact between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, NASA has reported that many American cities are 20 to 50 percent brighter than normal. But, with all the light comes excessive energy usage. 

Dr. Greg Keoleian is the director of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability. He says the lights can become a considerable expense and source of energy usage. 

At this time of the year many households will put up holiday lights indoor and outdoors, and some can be quite expensive and cost consumers quite a bit of electricity, according to Keoloeian. The Department of Energy estimates that Americans burn over six billion kilowatt hours using holiday lights. 

Click on the player above to hear Dr. Keoleian give tips on conserving energy during the holidays, and read some below.

How Can You Be More Efficient?

“Using LED lights, households can make sure they are using LED lights and not incandescent lights. The older C9 lights, the fat bulbs,  that some of us grew up with, use a lot more electricity than the LEDs. For example a C9 incandescent bulb will use seven watts, whereas a C9 LED will use half a watt so if you have 25 feet of these, the C9 incandescents will use 175 watts whereas the C9 led will use 12.5 watts,” says Keoleian.

The University of Michigan has a variety of fact sheets on sustainability, here’s the one on US energy.

Tip: You’ll know if you have incandescent bulbs because they’re very warm to the touch. Especially when it comes to indoor lights, it’s going to be much safer to go with LED than incandescent.

How to not annoy your neighbors and local wildlife with lights

“Put your lights on a timer. You’ll be saving in electricity and also helping with light pollution. There are smart plugs and mechanical timers. Definitely [taking] control of when the lights are on will save energy and also help keep you neighbors happy,” says Keoleian. 

How to be better with lights all year round

“We’ve actually done a lot of research on replacing bulbs and looking at energy efficiency and residential lighting, there’s tremendous opportunities for replacing older lighting, so replacing incandescents with LEDs. So you could save 80 to 90 percent of the electricity by making that conversion, not only that but the incandescents like the Edison bulbs last only 1,000 hours whereas the LEDs can last 20,000 hours so you won’t have to replace the lights as often so you’ll save money and have to change your bulbs less frequently,” says Keoleian.


  • Anna Sysling is a producer for Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson and reports on environmental issues. When she’s not at work, Sysling is probably riding her bike around the city or out in her garden.