Replacing typical plug-in Christmas lights with solar can certainly cut a sliver off your utility bills, but don’t expect to buy your kids’ Christmas presents with the savings. The real benefit of solar Christmas lights is in their convenience and versatility – you can hang them anywhere you want without worrying about extension cords or outlets. And avoiding all that hassle in the busy holiday season is something we can all likely appreciate.
Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of solar lights, and find out exactly how much can you save on your utility bills by switching to solar Christmas lights.
Solar Christmas lights save energy, but not much
Yes, solar Christmas lights can save you a couple bucks on your utility bill, but their convenience, versatility, and environmental-friendliness are the real benefits.
As you probably already figured out, solar lights run off clean, endless renewable energy. Once you buy the lights, you’ll never again have to pay the utility for lighting up your holiday season.
Of course, you’re not going to be the next Warren Buffett or Bill Gates just from switching your Christmas lights over to solar lights, but it’s still a couple of bucks in your pocket.
As an example, let’s say each year you use 600 feet of traditional Christmas lights to decorate your front porch. This year, you want to switch them out for some solar lights. Good job!
A conventional Christmas light bulb uses 0.425 watts each. Spaced 6” apart, that’s 300 bulbs, or 127 watts total. If you use your lights from 6PM to 11PM each day for the entire month of December, that’s a total energy use of 19.7 kWh. After 10 years, that’s 197 kWh. At the national average utility rate of $0.13 per kWh, that totals about $25 in electricity costs.
We don’t need to tell you, that’s not a huge cost. Since you only use Christmas lights for a few weeks each year and conventional lights are pretty energy-conscience, you really can’t save much cash from switching from plug-in lights to solar lights.
However, that’s not the whole story. You might be surprised to find that solar Christmas lights are actually often cheaper than conventional plug-in Christmas lights. On Amazon, a well-reviewed set of solar Christmas lights typically runs about $10 for a 72-foot strand. In contrast, conventional lights can be double or even triple that price for a very similar quality.
Couple your meager savings from the lower energy use with the lower price tag and you’re talking about saving, well, still not that much money.
So the financial payback of going green this Christmas really isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean solar lights for the holidays isn’t completely void of purpose. In fact, the real benefit of solar Christmas lights is in their convenience and earth-friendliness.
Solar Christmas lights are all about convenience
Considering the meager financial savings you’ll see from switching over to solar lights, if your old Christmas lights are working fine for you, there’s really no reason to switch over. However, if your current light set-up just isn’t working out, solar lights are a great option – especially for outdoor situations.
Since they don’t need an outlet or power source (other than the solar panel, of course) you’re not limited by your outlets or extension cords. Whether your mail box is 10 feet from your house or 200 feet, it just doesn’t matter. As long as you’ve got sunlight, you can light that mailbox up with solar lights.
It’s just as easy to wrap solar lights around deck rails and spindles, trees, bushes, and whatever else you want to spruce up. And considering you’ll never pay for the electricity, you can leave them up all year without worrying about wasting money!
Solar lights are good for the environment too!
On top of that, solar lights are more earth-friendly than plug-in varieties (unless you live in Aspen, CO, or one of 5 other cities that already sources 100% of its energy from clean energy).
In our little example above, by replacing that 500-bulb string of conventional Christmas lights with solar versions, you’re helping avoid 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of CO2 over those same 10 years (depending on your state). While it’s not a huge amount, every pound of emissions we avoid creating is certainly worthwhile. If we all make small changes, like solar Christmas lights, it can add up quickly into big changes.
Of course, solar lights aren’t perfect. If there’s no sunlight for a couple days, your lights won’t be able to turn on. If you live in an area with heavy, consistent cloud cover, that could be a problem.
Secondly, since solar lights integrate the lights, battery, and solar panel into one unit, you can’t connect multiple strings together to make one mega-string. If you have a giant tree in your front yard that you’d like to completely cover this winter season, you’ll either need to buy an extra-long string or simple have multiple solar panels hidden in the tree.
Can I use solar Christmas lights indoors?
Absolutely! Solar Christmas lights can be used both indoors and outdoors, as long as they have access to plenty of sunlight. Watch out for objects that can shade the solar panel, like trees, bushes, and neighbor’s homes.
Most solar lights need 5 to 6 hours of full sunlight to completely charge the battery, so you’ll need to make sure the solar panel has access to sunlight for most of the day. Finding a good spot outdoors is easy, but it might be trickier if you want to use your lights inside. Place the solar panel next to a south-facing window or, if possible, just run the cord outside so you can install the solar panel directly in full sun.
Most solar string lights have about 6 feet of wire between the solar panel and the first bulb, so you have some room to find the best spot. And since solar lights don’t need to be permanently installed, if your battery isn’t getting enough juice in one area, just move the solar panel a few feet and try again!
Solar Christmas lights aren’t about saving money. If you want to do that, just install solar on your roof (which is a much better financial investment). Instead, solar Christmas lights are about making the busy holidays a little simpler and easier, while helping out the earth at the same time. Seems like a good time of year for all of that, right.
Want to buy solar Christmas lights for your home? Check out our list of the of best solar Christmas lights for this season.
Image source: Public Domain via Pexels