It is almost time to put up your christmas lights. In the classic Christmas movie National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation, Clark Griswold’s mother-in-law nags Clark for spending so much on Christmas lights calling them a “…a silly waste of resources…” I have embedded the scene below in case you would like a refresher. This got me wondering, just how much did Clark spend on all those Christmas lights anyway? What about LED Chistmas lights, would those have saved Clark money? If you are a fan of Clark Griswold and pointless math then lets figure it out together.
Clark used 250 strands with 100 bulbs per strand, similar to these best selling Christmas lights on Amazon for $7.86 (AL- see disclosure below) per strand. Buying 250 of those suckers would have run Clark $1,965. Ouch, that’s a lot.
The movie shows the electric meter spinning wildly when the house is finally light up, but in reality it’s not nearly that bad. In this article on clarkhoward.com last Christmas, I figured a strand of lights would run a heavy user about $1.11 per strand for the whole Christmas season. That isn’t as bad as the movie depicts, but that is still going to run old Mr. Griswold $277.50 in extra electricity bills for the Christmas season.
So it costs Clark Griswold $2,242.50 in the first year to have his Christmas lights. A silly waste of resources? Well…. maybe. But maybe it is worth it for the joy it brings his neighborhood.
What if Clark has used LEDs
Clark using high efficiency LED Christmas lights would have kept him from blacking out the rest of the neighborhood, but would it have saved him money? This set of 100 LED Christmas lights (AL) will cost you $18.59 per strand on Amazon or $4,647.50 for 250 sets. While the upfront cost is higher, the energy savings are significant. Instead of $1.11 per strand for regular Christmas lights, LED Christmas lights will only cost about $.06 per strand for the whole Christmas season or about $15 for all 250 strings of light.
That brings the total cost of LED lights for the first year up to a whopping $4,662.50. The LED lights would have cost a net total of $2,420 more the first year.
That’s just the first year, what about the long run?
If you look at the long run however, the answer completely flips. During the second year Clark is going to have to shell out another $225 in electricity for the regular bulbs or a mere $15 for the LEDs. So, the LEDs are starting to catch up. Where the LEDs really catch up though is in longevity.
One of the great things about LED bulbs is how long they last compared to old fashioned bulbs. How long do regular Christmas lights last? Three years maybe?
LED bulb manufacturers claim their bulbs will last almost forever, but that’s overly optimistic in my opinion. Lets assume with the wear and tear of taking those lights up and down every year they last 9 years.
If those assumptions are true, Clark would have saved a ton of money over those 9 years with the LED bulbs. Replacing incandescent lights 3 times over a 9 year period would have cost Clark a whopping $5,895! The electricity costs would have really added up too. The power bill would have been $2,498 over those nine years. That is a total cost of $8,392.50 over nine years, or an average of $932.50 per year. When you put it those terms, maybe Christmas lights aren’t such a silly waste of resources after all.
The LED bulbs on the other hand, would have been practically a steal. Those 250 strands of LEDs would have stayed at $4,647.50 in expense over the 9 years, and the electricity for the whole 9 years would be a tiny $135. That means the average cost of LED Christmas lights amortized over a nine year period is a fairly reasonable $531 year. Over the course of 9 years Clark would have saved a total of $3,610.
What would you do?
So it seems like LEDs are the smart way to go, but $531 per year is a little much for me. I usually go with 2 strings of lights which is enough to stretch across the length of my home. Over a 9 year period LEDs will cost me a mere $4.25 per year Vs $7.46 per year if I go with regular Christmas lights. For a little Christmas cheer, $4.25 per year is a bargain.
Now, to get everybody in the Christmas spirit, let’s enjoy Clark’s light show.
Disclosure- Links marked AL are affiliate links. 10% of all revenue from affiliate links goes to a charity picked annually by artofbeingcheap.com readers.