MARQUETTE - Christmas is a season of lights, and that means a season of electricity. But there are ways to light up the holiday without burning through your energy budget.
The Upper Peninsula Power Company offers a wide array of energy saving ideas and safety tips for customers during the holiday season.
UPPCO urges customers to consider using light-emitting-diode, or LED, holiday lights as they use up to 90 percent less electricity, last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs, produce almost no heat and are very durable.
A brilliant Christmas light display in Marquette. All that holiday wattage can be expensive. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
LEDs, while more expensive to buy, have an encased solid-state semi-conductor chip that provides a bright light at significantly less operating cost than a conventional filament bulb. There may be incentive rebates available through local retailers to encourage the purchase of LED lights. The cost to keep a string of 100 LED lights operating for an entire month is only about 10 cents, compared to conventional lights that could cost $1.
LED lights are available in strings from 20 to 150 bulbs with white, yellow, red, green and blue bulbs. There are many styles available including mini-ice, faceted, smooth globe and faceted sphere.
If customers are using older lights in their displays, UPPCO recommends a programmable on/off timer switch so lighting displays will automatically turn on and off at a specific time. This avoids leaving the lights on all day or all night. Another benefit of the automatic timer is security for residents because it gives the appearance that someone is home even while residents are away.
Conserving energy around the Christmas holiday is important for the entire electrical grid, not just for individuals. According to UPPCO, the system-wide electric load will typically increase from 1 to 4 percent in the evening hours during the month of December.
Residential holiday lighting and an increase in retail store hours and home entertaining drive the higher electricity use.
All that cheery holiday ambience can be expensive. A typical home running an exterior and interior holiday lighting display will see an electric bill increase from $10 to $60 for the months the displays are in use, according to the power company's figures. The increase will show up in the customer's January bill.
One innovative holiday gift idea offered by UPPCO can help offset lighting costs. UPPCO Energy Gift Certificates are available in any amount as the certificate can be used to help pay for the recipient's electric bill.
About 45 energy gift certificates were purchased last December at an average cost of around $115. The "Gift of Energy" certificates can be purchased online at the UPPCO internet site www.uppco.com. Look under the "For Homes" section and click on "Gift Certificates."
On that page, UPPCO also offers a "Shopping List" that includes a number of energy saving ideas to consider, as well as "The 12 Days of Savings" which is a free download that includes a dozen ways to save energy.