It's no surprise homeowners with elaborate holiday lights displays see their electric bills spike this time of year.
Their electric bills rise by $20, $30 or even $100 a month. Which means they pay attention to ways to save on electricity for their holiday light displays — without dampening the joy of the season.
Several homeowners who put up thousands of holiday lights each year share the ways to save on energy:
Consider LEDs, light-emitting diodes, if you're shopping for new holiday lights. They typically cost $10 to $40 more per string, but they last 10 times longer and use 90 percent less power, according to Florida Power & Light.
Jeff Ostroff of Margate said he spent $9,000 in 2007 to replace his 23,000 incandescent holiday lights with 65,000 LEDs. He ramped up his holiday display and saved, too.
Since then, his electric bill increases about $100 a month when the lights are up. His bills went up $350 a month with fewer incandescents.
Track your energy use with smart meters or watt-hour meters: devices that measure the electricity burned by your gadgets. Ostroff purchased a watt-hour meter for about $60 in 2006, and that led to his switch to LEDs.
"I was shocked to find out how just one small 12-inch cube [light] was drawing" so much power that eight or nine of them could have blown out an electric circuit, he said.
Ostroff, an electrical engineer who runs a website, said FPL sent him instructions to track his energy use online using his new smart meter — something he said he's looking forward to.
FPL plans to install smart meters for almost all of its 4.5 million customers. It is done in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and has about 60,000 customers left in Palm Beach County, according to FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson.
Steven and Beverly Scalabrin of Boynton Beach track their energy use online. They're saving $30 a month on their electric bill since they removed paint that was blocking vents in their attic about a year ago.
The savings help offset the increase — roughly $60 to $100 — to their monthly electric bill when they switch on their holiday display Thanksgiving night, said Steve Scalabrin, a data miner for the local school district.
Set lighted decorations on a timer and turn off holiday lights when you go to bed. Ostroff and the Scalabrins set their lights to turn off at 10:30 p.m. Timed or motion-detecting outdoor lights can save energy year-round.
Ostroff said his holiday lights are off half the time because they're synchronized to turn on at different times with music: "That adds a huge savings."
Use holiday decor that doesn't use energy, such as wreaths and ribbons.
Some of the most charming features of the Scalabrins' display are items that don't light up: artificial snow, a real sleigh, nine life-size rubber reindeer and stuffed elves and dolls.
Save on other electrical uses. Maybe you're in the camp of Steve Nadekow, who saves energy with his new air conditioning system and by turning off the water heater during the day. That makes room for splurging on the electric bill during the holidays, Nadekow said.
His electric bill goes up $20 to $30 a month to power 12,000 lights, music, inflatables and animated deer. The payoff: seeing the children next door wait in front of the house for the lights to come on for the first time each year.
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