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Mega lighting displays costly over holidays

“Bright on a Budget” report says that many are embracing budget-friendly holiday decorating
BC Hydro is encouraging Trail residents to conserve energy by keeping their holiday lighting displays modest but fun this Christmas, much like this festive Santa family’s Sunningdale home. Photo: Jim Bailey

Many West Kootenay families robustly celebrate the holiday season with mega-lighting displays indoors and out; but a BC Hydro report is advising residents that less may be more this Christmas.

The “Bright on a Budget” report says that many British Columbians are embracing budget-friendly holiday decorating this year, yet, ‘Mega’ holiday lighting displays are expected to increase.

Customers of the utility are facing cost pressures this holiday season, which translates into about 60 per cent of respondents planning to tone down their holiday décor at home – or not even decorate at all.

But according to the report, ‘mega’ decorators are not going to let budget constraints stop them from celebrating.

“Clark Griswold-style ‘mega’ lighting displays are expected to increase by 50 per cent this year when compared to 2020,” read the report.

A ‘mega’ display consists of more than ten strings of lights and multiple blow up and electronic plug-in decorations.

“About 15 per cent of British Columbians said they put up outdoor holiday ‘mega’ displays each year,” said Kyle Donaldson, BC Hydro spokesperson. “Of those, 100 per cent said they will be doing another mega display this year, despite the cost concerns that many may have after a difficult financial year.”

While many British Columbians fall in the middle category when it comes to holiday decorating, there is still some indication that they are keeping costs in mind, and perhaps doing a little less on the décor front this year, especially when it comes to outdoor decorating.

Of those who plan to decorate outdoors, 37 per cent say they plan to put up three to five strings of lights, and 21 per cent plan to put up 6-10 strings. Multicoloured lights are the most popular choice (46 per cent), followed by a mix of multicoloured and white lights (26 per cent). Seven per cent say they will add blow-up decorations to the mix.

When it comes to indoor decorating, 80 per cent of respondents will be decorating the same amount as they have in previous years.

The costs of purchasing and powering decorations, are two of the main reasons the minimalists are scaling back their décor and why non-decorators will not be participating this year.

Despite costs holding many back, residents may not realize some of their technology choices and habits may be contributing to higher costs.

For example, about 30 per cent are using old incandescent light strings or a mix of old incandescent and LED lighting for outdoor decorating – with the number rising to about 40 per cent for indoor decorating.

Incandescent lighting uses significantly more power and is more expensive to run. Many are also using inflatables, and some are also planning on adding at least one blow up decoration to the mix this year, which can add to costs because they are typically run 24/7 and use a lot more power than a strand of LED bulbs.

In addition, there are the 12 per cent who admit to keeping their lights up and running all year round – with most, 22 per cent, of those living in northern B.C.

BC Hydro recommends the following to keep holiday displays merry, bright, and affordable:

- Switch to LEDs: Save about $40 over the holiday season by switching eight strands of incandescent lights to energy efficient LEDs. LED holiday lights also last ten times longer and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours.

- Plugging decorations into timers: Reduce electricity costs by only having lights on when needed.

- Considering the cost of inflatables: These decorations are simple to install—with limited set up and no ladders or tools required, which makes them an easy addition to a holiday display. The electricity used by these can add up to $50 each to electricity costs over the holidays.

- Using MyHydro: See how holiday decorating impacts electricity use by using the electricity tracking tools available on MyHydro, at

- The colder, darker winter months are typically the time when hydro bills increase for many households. If you are having trouble paying your BC Hydro bill, please reach out via phone at 1-800-BC-Hydro to set up an equal payment plan or discuss other flexible payment options or available grants.

For more information on smart holiday energy choices visit BC Hydro Holiday Countdown.

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