City streetlights blink bright red and green. Even Rudolph’s nose shines so bright. The most wonderful time of the year is also the season with the highest energy usage.
Larger cities used to mandate that light displays be turned off within certain hours as they enforced how to save energy at home. Thanks to new technology added to increased awareness of sustainable energy, you can again run your displays 24 hours per day. But it’s not advised if you want to save on your energy bill.
Still, Still, Still
It’s fun to drive past flashing light displays that cover entire houses. Some homeowners even broadcast radio stations that can be picked up within a block or two, playing holiday music in rhythm to the lights.
Lights have become a widespread tradition during the holiday season but new options help save power. Sites dedicated to how to save electricity at home give excellent tips for conserving energy while maintaining your holiday traditions.
Stores still sell the big C7 and C9 incandescent bulbs. But two-inch C7 bulbs use five watts of power and three-inch C9 bulbs use seven. If you operate your display only five hours per day, spend ten cents per kilowatt-hour and use only ten strands of these lights, you’ll spend $19 to $26 per month just to power your display.
Miniature lights still use a filament, getting warm enough that some gardeners install them in hoop houses for a few degrees of additional frost protection. Using the same hours and costs described above, a display of ten miniature light strands would cost $6 per month.
The invention of LED lights saves both energy and replacement costs. Shining brightly without heating up, they are safer than incandescent lights. And though a strand costs more than miniature lights, they last up to 20 years, about three times as long as miniatures. A display using ten strands of LED lights will cost 60 cents per month to power.
No matter what type of lights you use, always check strands for frayed wires or cracked insulation. Replace any damaged strands. Be sure the lights outside your home are appropriate for outside usage. Make sure outside plugs and sockets are waterproof, and keep all electrical connections off the ground.
And though you conservatively use the most efficient lights, save even more energy by turning them on only when you need them. Set your lights to timers so they won’t shine when you’re asleep or away from home. Or simply unplug the lights when you go to bed.
Harness the power of your neighbor’s expensive display without adding to your own electric bill.
Department stores glimmer with reflective decorations during this time of year. Tinsel, plastic ornaments, or beautiful glass tree toppers all catch the light and cast it in different decorations. Hanging shiny icicles from your eaves lets your house glisten with the combined rays from windows, street lights, and holiday displays.
Inside, hang tinsel or mirrored ornaments from a tree. Or scatter them about your house to reflect the light of your everyday activities.
Cut glass both reflects and refracts light. Make a homestead-style display by securing miniature or LED lights plus a little reflective tinsel inside a recycled mason jar. The “quilted” glass jars refract twice as much light as smooth styles. Set the jars on a table. Or tie strong ribbon to the mason jar bands, secure bands to the jars, and use these ribbons to hang the jars from sturdy hooks so no weight hangs from electrical cords.
The Holly and the Ivy
For a charming country Christmas and holiday season, use natural materials or repurpose what you already have. This reduces the need for electricity, keeps waste from landfills, and saves you money on supplies.
Christmas trees and wreaths are a timeless example of bringing nature inside. If you don’t want to cut down a tree, buy a potted evergreen which is suited to your climate. Nurture the tree through the winter and plant it outside after the weather warms enough that you don’t send the tree into shock. Or weave a wreath from branches, saplings, or vines gleaned from your end-of-season farm and garden cleanup.
Many items from your garden can be made into ornaments. Pop up some corn then use a sharp needle and strong thread, interchanging the popcorn with dried berries or chili peppers to make a colorful garland. When the holidays are over, remove the string and feed the materials to your chickens.
Decorate by mixing natural elements with recycled materials and heirlooms. Fill a mason jar with water and evergreen boughs then set it on a table in front of the wall hanging your grandmother hand-stitched.
Natural elements can also help you build new memories at little cost. Help children glue holly and dried rosehips to a picture frame. Or collect large pine cones to paint green and decorate like Christmas trees.
Hearts Will be Glowing
Traditions constantly change and evolve. From yule logs and candles to electric lights, from dreidels made of clay to those manufactured out of resin. You can modify your rituals to modern times while still honoring tradition. The importance stays the same: celebrating with those you love.
This holiday season, consider teaching your family how to save electricity at home or 10 ways to conserve water. Incorporate new knowledge into old practices. Try out a pomegranate jelly recipe or healthy sweet potato recipes, preparing them together while using the heat from the stove to warm a chilly house. Be sure to match the size of the burner to the pan; if burners are two inches wider than the pan, up to 40% of the energy can be wasted. Roast chestnuts over an enclosed wood stove or inside the oven if the open fire isn’t available. If you don’t want to heat up your house, simmer comfort food in an energy-efficient crock pot while you make memories in another room.
As the evening descends, wish everyone goodnight as you turn off the tree’s lights. Turn them back on when you gather together again, letting the gentle glow illuminate your new traditions.