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Christmas lights don't have to be costly

Photo by Mark Schneider

Photo by Mark Schneider

COVINGTON — It's possible to decorate with lights for the holidays without spending a fortune, according to city of Covington Utilities Director Bill Meecham.

"Most Christmas decorating schemes use miniature lights, commonly sold in 100-light strings of about 25 feet in length. Most miniature lights run from about 1⁄4 watt per bulb up to 1⁄2 watt, typically about .35 watts. A string of 100 of these uses 35 watts," Meecham said. "That's not a lot of electricity, and if you run a string of 100 such lights for five hours a day for a 30-day month, you only use 5.25 kilowatt hours."

Do you have a Christmas display you'd like to share with others?

If so, send your address to the Newton Citizen and we'll publish it so those who like to tour the town in search of Christmas lights can find you. E-mail barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com or call 770-787-7303.

At the national residential average rate of about 11 cents per kilowatt hour, that equals about 58 cents. Ten strings would cost $5.80 to operate for the month, Meecham said.

To save even more money, take advantage of LED lights, which use much less electricity. A string of 50 to 60 C-3 LED lights will use 5 watts. Over a 30-day time period, that's 3⁄4 of a kilowatt hour or a little more than 8 cents.

Length of strings and number of lights in a string vary, but a good formula to calculate cost is to take 20 to 25 percent of electricity used by standard lights, Meecham said. "A comparable LED display to the 10 strings of standard mini lights would cost $1.65 to operate. That's amazingly inexpensive," he said.

The larger C-9 bulbs are also relatively inexpensive. The cost to operate a 25-light string for a month is about $2.89.

Those numbers are based on an 11 cent per kilowatt hour rate, but local winter rates generally run less than that, Meecham added.

Lights and extension cords often go hand in hand, and it's important to make sure safety is considered when using them.

"Each extension cord is rated in amps or watts for its maximum electrical capacity. This capacity should never be exceeded by the electrical load of the devices that are plugged into it," Meecham said. "For example, a table lamp may have a load of 150 watts. Several strings of small Christmas lights may have a similar load. However, a portable heater may have a load of up to 1,500 watts, well above the rating of many extension cords. The same is true of some power tools."

Meecham said it's important to make sure cords are adequate for the job at hand. The cord's rating, or wattage, should be adequate for the plug and there should be a UL or other recognized safety label that indicates compliance with customary standards.

"Also, please do not set objects on cords or run them under rugs or piles of debris. Avoid walking on cords. Be sure that the cord is designed for use in the environment where it will be used," Meecham said.