How much do Christmas lights cost to run? Here's how you could save money this holiday season

We explain how much Christmas lights cost to run and how you can make a few savings this holiday season

A string of christmas lights in a ball on a table, turned on
(Image credit: Alamy)

While trying to keep the festive cheer alive this year, many people will be wondering how much Christmas lights cost to run, and what they can do to keep their electricity bills low this season.

Christmas wouldn't be the same without hundreds of twinkling Christmas light ideas lighting up our homes, however, with so many of us looking for ways to save money at home this season, our decorations may look a little different.

If you are wanting to keep an eye on your energy consumption this Christmas, there are even a few changes you can make that will help to cut energy bills this season without compromising on your Christmas decor ideas

Here, experts have explained how to work out how much your Christmas lights may be costing you this Christmas.

How much do Christmas lights cost to run?

The good news is that despite their usual abundance, Christmas lights typically use very little energy each year – even if you turn them on December 1st and use them nightly throughout the month. This cost is made even lower if you swap your old Christmas lights for energy-efficient LEDs

A tall decorated real pine Christmas tree by a traditional fireplace, and a garland laid on the mantlepiece, a flora patterned sofa and rich brown painted walls.

(Image credit: Future)

'To find the running cost of your Christmas lights you need to know the wattage and how much your electricity costs per Kw,' Les Roberts, content manager at Bionic (opens in new tab) begins. 'Your Christmas lights should have their wattage on the label, in the instructions, or on the box. LED lights will have a much lower wattage, so will use significantly less energy. 

'Once you have the wattage of your lights, divide it by 1000 to find the kilowatt hours (KwH). This is how much energy the lights will use in the hour. Next, you need to find out your energy rate per Kw by looking at your latest energy bill. You can then calculate the running cost of your lights.

'For example, if your lights run on five watts, divide five by 1000 to convert to kilowatt-hours, giving you 0.005 kWh. If you want to use the lights on your Christmas tree for the evening for, say, three hours, multiply 0.005 by three to get 0.015kW (your lights will use 0.015kW in those three hours). If your energy costs 16 cents per kWh, multiply 16 by 0.015 and you will have the cost to run your lights, which is 24 cents for three hours.'

To simplify that, the calculation is: [wattage/1000 x time in hours] x cost per kWh in cents = cost to run Christmas lights 

'It's worth remembering that whilst incandescent bulbs can use around 40 watts for a 100-light string, the same number of LED lights will run on around 25% of this wattage, so your running cost will be cut drastically,' Les adds. 

How to save money on Christmas lights 

Whether you are looking to save on your indoor Christmas lighting ideas, or are wondering whether your outdoor Christmas decor ideas are worth illuminating this year there are a few options for cutting costs without compromising on style.

1. Work out how many lights you really need 

Christmas tree, presents, fairy lights

(Image credit: The White Company )

Working out exactly how many lights you need for your Christmas tree ideas will help you save money by avoiding excess bulbs. Luckily, this is easy to work out. 

'The number of lights needed on your tree will depend on both the height and density (i.e. how bushy) your tree is,' begins Pablo Diaz Barriga, VP of international business at Balsam Brands (opens in new tab). 'Generally speaking, an average seven-foot tree of medium density will need around 900 lights. For a brighter look, you might want to add more or less for lighter coverage.

'The Balsam Hill website has a nifty Christmas Lights Calculator (opens in new tab) to help you find the right number for your tree and preferences.'

2. Opt for newer LED lights

Flocked Christmas tree branches with gifts

(Image credit: Folding Chair Design Co)

Older Christmas lights tend to be made with iridescent bulbs, however, updating your lights could save you money in the long run. 

'Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little sparkle, so finding the right lights for your tree should always be high on the festive to-do list. The main two types of bulbs you’ll find are incandescent and LED. LEDs may cost you a little more than traditional incandescent ones up-front, but you save in the long run as they use less energy and don’t need to be replaced so frequently,' Pablo Diaz Barriga of Balsam Brands explains.

3. Use solar powered lights outside 

Outdoor Christmas lights on front yard wall and house

(Image credit: Festive Lights)

'Many households love to extend their Christmas decorations to the outside of their home for the entire neighborhood to enjoy.  This is when solar-powered Christmas decorations are a great energy-saving option,' says Ava Pope, an energy-saving expert at Love Energy Savings (opens in new tab). 'While buying new lights when you’ve got perfectly good ones sitting in a box seems wasteful when it does come time to replace your Christmas lights, opting for solar-powered and going electricity free is a great way of cutting down on your energy bill at this time of year.'

'Keep in mind that most solar-powered lights require around six hours of direct sunlight to fully charge,' Ava warns. 'However; premium solar lights can achieve a full charge within just an hour of daylight, meaning that even in the winter months with shorter daylight hours, you can benefit from the energy and cost saving of solar power.'

Solar lights could be a great option for Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees, allowing you to put the charging box high up and unobstructed by garden features and shadows. 

4. Consider battery operated lights for smaller displays

Window display with oversized silver baubles

(Image credit: The White Company)

'If you have stashes of batteries hidden in drawers, then you should definitely make use of them for Christmas lights. This means that electricity from the mains power supply isn’t being used, and if you use LED battery-powered lights, they will last longer than incandescent lights, saving you money on batteries in the long run,' Connor Campbell, a Personal Finance Expert at NerdWallet (opens in new tab) explains.

'Battery-powered lights are much more convenient for decorating too, especially if you’re using them outdoors. You can have more decorative freedom since you don’t have to worry about connecting the lights to the mains somewhere.'

Battery-operated lights are a wonderful option for smaller displays such as Christmas window decor ideas where rolls of fairy lights are unnecessary. 

Do Christmas lights use a lot of electricity?

Christmas lights typically only use small amounts of electricity however, given that many people use multiple sets of lights at a time across a home for hours at a time, it all adds up. Typically, one 1,000-bulb set of lights uses 40 watts of energy.

Is it cheaper to leave lights turned on all the time?

While there is a myth that lights use more electricity being turned off and on again, turning lights off for long periods of time such as when you leave a room or go to bed will reduce your energy consumption and lower your energy bill, especially with modern light bulbs. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.