It’s that time of year again! Soon you will be rummaging through storage attempting to locate your old holiday lights. Some people like to go all out decorating their homes, requiring a lot of technology to spread holiday joy. This time of year, the strain on the electrical grid increases, and many scientists are pushing now more than ever to choose a more energy efficient strategy towards your holiday decorations. So what options do you have to save energy and costs this holiday season?
It’s 2013 and energy technology is now cheaper than ever, and there are more options than ever, too. Let’s go over some of the things you can do to stay green this season.
LED Christmas Lights
A standard string of 200 multi-colored LED lights will cost more than their incandescent counterparts, so what benefits could this investment really provide? When looking at the big picture, this option will certainly help out the environment more than your wallet. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily; it just depends on where your personal priorities lie. Let’s break it down:
Here are the parameters for our case study:
cost per kilowatt-hour = $.19
cost for LED lights (an 8 watt string) = $27
cost for Incandescent (a 48 watt string) = $14
run-time = 5 hours/day, 7days/week, 30 days (Month of December)
# of strands = 6
|Cost for 1 season||$92.15||$163.31|
Your initial investment was $78 more by choosing LED over the incandescent. So how long before you are able to make that money back? Since you’re saving $6.84 each year by using LEDs, you will have saved $78 dollars’ worth of energy in 11.4 years.
I’m betting that most of you would rather see a return on investment earlier than a decade of use. However, there are other benefits to using LEDS. They are usually safer and significantly more durable. As far as quality, the cheaper LED strings actually tend to appear dimmer than incandescent.
If you’re willing to pay for the quality, however, there are very bright and beautiful LED Christmas lights available at a retailer near you.
In conclusion, switching to LED for your holiday light show might not be efficient as far as costs are concerned, but they certainly are the clearer choice if your goal is to save energy and go green.
And for that traditional New Mexican look: Luminarias! No electrical costs and it only takes your time and a few readily-available supplies to prepare and set them up.
Solar Christmas Lights
Here’s an interesting concept – what if you could bring a holiday experience to your home with ZERO energy? That sounds like a great deal, huh?! Well, let’s back up the gravy-train a bit. Yes, there are solar powered light strings available on the market, but if you’re expecting something to replace your vibrant long light string to accent your home’s exterior roofline – think again. The 100% solar powered lights that are available tend to give a “fairy garden” effect, meaning they are very dim and are great for subtle accent lighting. Another drawback is that location matters. Here in New Mexico we get 300+ days of sunshine, even in the month of December. But if you’re in the Pacific Northwest you might not see as much of a result with the solar panels.
If you’re a tinkerer or a hacker, you might be able to put a decent set of lights together with individual parts. As it currently stands, the cost of a large enough solar panel coupled with a battery with enough capacity to power a full string of standard LEDs is too high to market as a set of temporary lights that you would only use for about a month. Perhaps in years to come we may see these costs go down and the brightness and quality of solar panel LED light strings increase.
Believe it or not, you can actually go green – literally – with your tree this holiday. There has been a long argument over which type of tree is better for the environment – real or fake. Let’s explore the two sides.
|No PVC (polyvinyl chloride)||Contains PVC, often stabilized with lead which can break free as harmful dust after years of using the tree|
|Usually grown locally||Usually shipped from China|
|You have to buy a new one every year||You can buy the tree once, then use it again for many years to come|
|Can decompose and can be recycled||Don’t biodegrade and most do not have recyclable material|
Generally the consensus is that going au natural with your tree is better overall for the environment. An independent study by a consulting group in Montreal once determined that you’d have to use your artificial tree for over twenty years in order for it to be the greener choice. As with most purchasing decisions, if you can buy local then do it! If you do choose the real tree route, there is most likely a handful of real tree family farms in your state, as well as those available through U.S. Forest Service permitting. The National Christmas Tree Association, A Christmas tree lobby, estimates that about 100,000 US jobs rely on the real tree industry.
But what if you could get a fake tree without the harm of plastic materials? The PossibiliTree is made of wood, making for a natural alternative to a fresh or artificial tree. If you’re more of the arts and crafts type of person, consider making a table top tree out of cardboard.
One energy-sucker which often goes unnoticed is your heating, cooling and ventilation system (HVAC). The end-of-the-year holiday months are cold – very cold (at least for those of us living in the northern hemisphere.) There are two things to consider when assessing your HVAC needs – insulation and the system itself (unit, ducts, etc). If you have poor insulation in your walls, or if your windows are not sealed correctly or are too thin, you will more than likely be overworking your heater leading to wasted energy. If you don’t have the budget or time for a full upgrade for either one of these two, consider supplementing or even replacing the need to crank up the thermostat with a space heater. These have come a long way over the years, and there are now Energy Star certified space heaters that are safer and more powerful than ever before. Some come in the form of a wannabe fireplace, and others look like something from a science fiction movie. Here are few to check out:
Dyson AM04, ~$400
LED vs. incandescent lighting data from http://www.wecheckenergy.com/pdf/Energy_Check_Holiday_Lights_12_11.pdf