Sebastian Payne

Christmas lights are not the answer to expensive energy

Christmas lights are not the answer to expensive energy
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It’s tough in Scotland. Faced with the prospect of a bitingly cold winter, fuel poverty and abandoning the Union, some of its residents have taken extreme measures to survive. ITV News reports that Darrel Piper of Dumfries has decided to heat his home with Christmas decorations instead of paying to run his heating system:

‘The 40-year-old says that he puts £30 in the electricity meter every fortnight and £5 in the gas meter to use for cooking. He says that if he didn't have the lights it would cost £60 a fortnight for the gas and electricity.’

Although Mr Piper apparently doesn’t leave the lights on when he’s out, and argues the trip switch would catch any problems, it can’t be a particularly safe answer to cheaper energy. The ITV report advises viewers it is ‘not advisable’ to follow his example.

His financial calculations don’t appear to be very accurate either. Although it’s not presently known which energy provider Mr Piper has chosen, The Independent suggested that an average display of lights will consume the equivalent of an entire average household’s electricity for 23 days over the festive period.

For something more scientific: London property firm PGS estimates a 1000 mini-filament set of lights would cost £14.23 if it were on for six hours every day over the Christmas period. Given how many lights Darrel appears to have in and around his property, plus the need to have them on longer to keep his home warm, the £25 saved by not turning his heating on seems implausible.

Plus, the actual heat given out by the lights must be minimal. Maybe he is so dazed by the decorations he is quite unaware of the heat levels in his house? Instead of take the risk that his property may burn down, Darrel would do well to listen to the Prime Minister and shop around for a better energy deal.

UPDATE: A colleague has pointed out that tealights and flowerpots may be a more efficient way of heating your home through unconventional means. The Daily Mail have the details here.

The Energy Secretary Ed Davey will be speaking at The Spectator's 'How do we stop the lights going out?' conference on 2 December 2013 in  London. Click here for more information.