Sustainability made simple

How To Save Up to 75% Energy on Your Outdoor Christmas Lights

outdoor christmas lights
Foto: CC0 / Unsplash / Jimmy Conover

Outdoor Christmas lights are beautiful, but are they eco-friendly? Not exactly, but there are means to minimize their effects on nature and energy consumption.

Christmas is a time we all cherish. The holidays give us something to look forward to in the dark winter, and everyone loves to decorate their homes with twinkling string lights. But how eco-friendly are outdoor Christmas lights? In this article, we explore different types of outdoor Christmas lights in terms of energy use, light pollution, the effects on local wildlife, and more.

Christmas lights can account for over six terawatts of energy each year (one terawatt is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 watts), which is about equal to the monthly energy consumption of 500,000 homes. This is also more energy than the entire country of El Salvador uses in a whole year.

What can we do if we still want to decorate our homes and spaces with outdoor Christmas lights? Changing the type of lights we use or simply using them differently can help the planet in many ways. 

Alternatives to Outdoor Christmas Lights

Can we reduce our energy footprint?
Can we reduce our energy footprint?
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / ptksgc)

Energy bills are soaring all over the world, so along with reducing environmental impact with our outdoor Christmas lights, we can help our pockets too. In terms of energy consumption, a 100-count string of incandescent mini lights, for example, runs at 40 watts, while a 70-count string of 5mm LEDs kicks out approximately 4.8 watts total.

The good news is there are alternatives to standard lights, which use far less energy. LED lights are one such option. Using around 75% less energy (in some cases up to 90%), these lights can provide a massive energy-saving strategy. 

LED lights also have other benefits, along with being energy efficient. For example, they are:

  • Safe to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable

Solar-powered lights are another great alternative for outdoor Christmas lights. You could also look to fiber optics, which save energy when compared to standard lighting due to making use of a single bulb to light entire decorations.

Turn Off Your Christmas Lights at Night

Let your lights sleep at night as well.
Let your lights sleep at night as well.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / 652234)

When considering the impact of outdoor Christmas lights, the way that they are used also makes a difference. Many of us may leave our festive lights on overnight, which maximizes their impact on wildlife and costs us more energy. 

To help reduce negative effects on the environment, always make an effort to turn your lights out before retiring to bed. This will also lessen the risk of the lights overheating or burning out, extending the life of your decorations. LEDs carry a smaller risk of this, but all the same, it is good practice not to leave them on overnight.

Keeping your lights off overnight will also save you money. Another way to save money is to put your lights up a little later in the season and be sure to take them down in early January once the festivities are over.

    And here’s a little tip — if you often forget to turn lights off or will be away overnight, invest in a timer. Then you can rest assured that the lights will flick off.

      How Outdoor Christmas Lights Affect Wildlife

      Outdoor Christmas lights may prove confusing for an array of species.
      Outdoor Christmas lights may prove confusing for an array of species.
      (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / hashan)

      Festive outdoor lighting contributes to light pollution, which not only changes the way we see the night sky but can also negatively affect local animals and other wildlife.

      According to the International Dark Sky Association, artificial lighting can radically alter the behavior of certain nocturnal species (think of moths around lights). As research scientist Christopher Kyba states, “Predators use light for hunting, and prey species use darkness as cover… Near cities, cloudy skies are now hundreds or even thousands of times brighter than they were 200 years ago. We are only beginning to learn the drastic effect this has had on nocturnal ecology.”

      Outdoor Christmas lights contribute to this light pollution and have the potential to confuse species such as bats, owls, and certain birds. Research on cell towers suggests that red lights impact birds less than white, so choosing colored Christmas lights may be a better option. You may also be surprised by the number of reports of deer having outdoor Christmas lights entangled in their antlers. For this reason, wildlife experts suggest that outdoor Christmas lights (and other decorations) are not put up until after Nov. 30, which is when deer breeding tends to diminish.

      Purchase Advice for Outdoor Christmas Lights

      Think differently.
      Think differently.
      (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Michelle_Maria)

      When looking to purchase your more eco-friendly festive lights, here are a few top tips:

      • Opt for smaller bulbs. You can still get a very pretty decorative effect, and smaller bulbs will throw out less energy too.
      • Choose LED bulbs. The benefits of LED lights are highlighted above, but they are also less likely to burn out, so fewer replacements are required.
      • Go minimal. Thinking of where your lights will be most effective can also help. For example, one string in the right place could look far more effective than five. Or light a small tree outside your house instead of the whole house front. Tasteful and beautiful.

      Remember: Don’t throw your old lights in the trash! Instead, learn how to recycle Christmas lights properly. 

      Opting Out of Christmas Lights

      Get crafty at Christmas.
      Get crafty at Christmas.
      (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / tookapic)

      You may also minimize your festive lighting by using smaller bulbs and fewer lights or complementing them with more eco-friendly decorations. You could get a craft project going with your friends and family and see what you come up with. You may also extend that to making festive gifts. Then you’ll have homemade decorations filled with love that not only will look great but will help you create happy memories too.

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