I am not one for wasting electricity. I turn off lights when I leave a room — even in my office at work. I unplug devices once they are charged. I keep my thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer, and I try to do laundry at non-peak hours. My husband is equally frugal when it comes to power consumption. I would like to say our kids are also good at power conservation, but hey, they are kids, so that is a work in progress.
Christmas Vacation, starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, is one of my favorite Christmas movies. The scene where his Christmas lights are finally turned on with the flick of a light switch — the neighbors are blinded, the power to the whole neighborhood dims, and the “Auxiliary Nuclear” switch is thrown in response — never fails to make me laugh.
I have to admit, though, that since I started working for NPPD I have a different perspective on that classic scene. While the blaring siren is hilarious in the movie, what kills me about this scene now, as an adult and a public power employee, is when I consider how much Clark’s electricity bill must have been that month given the rate his meter was spinning!
Like the Griswolds, my family splurges on extra electricity at Christmas. I have two trees up in my house right now with several strings of lights on each. My teenage daughters run our electric fireplace in the basement almost every night while they drink hot cocoa brewed from a Keurig machine. The kitchen oven cranks out holiday treats, and the roaster on the counter browns more than one turkey or ham. And while he certainly can’t compete with Clark Griswold, my husband has the outside of our house looking very festive with lights and decorations.
So how do we enjoy all this Christmas power usage without breaking the bank? We make sure all our Christmas lights are LEDs. LED lights cost more than incandescent lights, but the cost savings is quickly made up. LED Christmas lights strung indoors and outdoors use, on average, about 80-90 percent fewer watts than incandescent lights. And we benefit from the great electric rates provided by public power here in Nebraska.
The cost of electricity for the average end-use consumer in Nebraska in September of 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, was 8.03 cents per kilowatt hour. Assuming our LED Christmas lights and all the other seasonal extras will use about 1,000 watts of power this holiday season, five hours a day for 30 days, our extra electricity usage cost will be about $12.05. That is money well spent to enjoy the lights this holiday season that illuminate the joy on my children’s faces.