Despite Switch to Led Lights, Christmas Hydro Usage Climbing in B.c.

The amount of electricity used for Christmas lights has gone up significantly in the past seven years even though two-thirds of British Columbians have ditched energy-sucking incandescent lights for LEDs.

The increase can be blamed on oversized blow-up seasonal yard art, Clark Griswold and possibly people replacing incandescent strands with a larger number of LED light strings, says B.C. Hydro.

And about one-third of hydro users are sticking with the old-fashioned incandescent lights to decorate, which use far more electricity than light-emitting diode lights, said hydro spokeswoman Tanya Fish.

LED lights were first sold to consumers 15 years ago, and a mass shift toward them a decade ago brought down December electricity use provincewide by 40 per cent by 2011, she said.

"If everyone had adapted to LED lights, the drop in usage would be even higher," she said.

But bigger displays that incorporate more lights, electronics and inflatable Santas and snowmen have caused December power use to surge 15 per cent since 2012, according to a new B.C. Hydro report released Friday called "From Grinch to Griswold: Trend Toward Bigger Holiday Displays Increasing Electricity Bills." The 15 per cent hike in December electricity use since 2012, after an adjustment for the increase in population over that time, is still a jump of 7.5 per cent, caused by "bigger and more elaborate holiday displays," the report said.

The fan-powered inflatable displays, which use more power than lights, are usually left on around the clock rather than just in the dark evening hours, said Fish.

And they may be becoming increasingly popular.A B.C. Hydro survey found that one-in-three British Columbians who responded said there's a mega display in their neighbourhood.

The survey also found that four per cent of respondents said they install more than 750 lights and some use more than 100,000 lights. And the survey showed that 15 per cent admitted to blowing breaker switches by overloading them.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents put up seasonal lights, according to the survey. Of those, almost 40 per cent put up three strands, 13 per cent use eight strands and six per cent plug in at least 10 strands.

Plugging in eight average strands of incandescent Christmas lights would cost $40 over the holidays; if LED, just 50 cents over the same time period, according to B.C. Hydro.

Leaving on an average inflatable display plugged in 24/7 during December would cost $50 in hydro, Fish said.

One Cloverdale couple who decorate their yard with tens of thousands of lights see their power bill soar around Christmas, but said it's worth it to spread the joy of the season.

Andrea and Dan Bonneteau have a massive display at their home on Jersey Drive that she estimates costs the family $500 to light during December.

"It's one of the things we spend money on," said Andrea. She said 95 per cent of the lights are LED and they are turned on from 5:30 to 10:30 every night.

She said they've turned the display into a fundraiser for Surrey Memorial Hospital.

"People tell us how much they love it," she said. "They come from all over to see it." B.C. Hydro says it's not suggesting homeowners cut out Christmas lights.

"We really encourage people to continue to put up lights. It's a great way to show off their Christmas spirit," said Fish.

But she said B.C. Hydro suggests switching to LEDs, using timers for displays instead of leaving them on around the clock and using B.C. Hydro's to determine how much Christmas lights will add to your bill.

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