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Lights’ bill can be high

They come in all different shapes and colors, twinkling in the dark and lighting up the evening sky in brilliant reds, blues, greens and whites.

Wednesday, December 15, 1999

They come in all different shapes and colors, twinkling in the dark and lighting up the evening sky in brilliant reds, blues, greens and whites.

All over Lawrence County, the countryside is dotted with brightly-lit homes, signaling the coming holiday and lighting a path for Santa and his sleigh.

But, with Christmas trees glittering in the windows and icicle lights dripping from the eaves of county houses, electricity meters are humming and holiday utility bills are on the way.

Other than heating the house strictly with a fireplace, there are ways to cut the cost of holiday lighting before the electricity bill is delivered to a home, said Melissa McHenry, American Electric Power corporate communications manager.

"For the average Ohio Power customer, it will cost between 5.5 and 6 cents to operate a strand of lights for an hour," Ms. McHenry said. "That is an estimate for a strand of lights that includes about 130 of the 7.5 watt bulbs, which are the smaller bulbs."

Although the larger bulbs generally use a higher wattage, they also are usually sold with fewer on a strand, so it might be a similar cost to operate a strand of the slightly larger light bulbs, she added.

Although seemingly inexpensive, the number of strands used in average decorating can add up during the holiday season.

Using this formula, if a resident used seven strands of lights on a Christmas tree and an average of 10 strands of lights outdoors, the average cost of operating the lights for five hours is about $5 per evening; $35 per week; and about $140 per month. This is in addition to a resident’s average monthly electric bill.

The above formula is used only for the small wattage bulbs at 133 bulbs per strand, McHenry said.

Decorations that are gaining popularity called icicle lights –  strands of lights that have several sections of smaller strands of small-wattage bulbs hanging down from the main strand – generally cost more, she said.

"It is important to remember that some strands of lights may contain significantly more than 133 bulbs, particularly the icicle lights that people put on their homes," she said.

For both conservation and safety’s sake, Christmas lights and other decorations should be unplugged when occupants are not at home or when they go to bed for the night, said Joe Pemberton, AEP Ashland District Manager.

"Safety should be the first consideration when using lights, both inside and outside the house," Pemberton said.