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Going all-out with holiday lighting bumps up electricity usage

The trend is to bigger, more elaborate lighting displays

Thursday December 24, 2020 | VANCOUVER ISLAND, BC

by Kiley Verbowski | Island Social Trends | Mary P Brooke, editor

Holiday decorations usually account for three per cent of the provincial electricity load at the end of the year, but BC Hydro is expecting a higher demand as British Columbians go all out with pluggged-in holiday displays.

According to a new survey by BC Hydro, about 60 per cent of British Columbians are planning to put up outdoor displays this year, and about 20 per cent plan to do more decorating than usual.

The ramp up in decorating seems to be a response to duress of the pandemic: 90 per cent of respondents said that COVID-19 is impacting the way they’ll spend the holidays. With most people grounding their holiday travel plans, and 41 per cent of respondents noting that they are less likely to visit public light displays this season, it appears that many households are taking the initiative in spreading some good old-fashioned neighbourhood cheer.

Decorating trends:

While some households will inevitably hold the line on traditional decorations and put up the same old string lights and baubles, it’s easy to spot more elaborate yards and homes than ever before.

Generally, the number of holiday decorations has been on the rise in the last few years.

holiday lights, house, Dec 2020
Holiday lighting brightens up a small house in the west shore area. [Mary Brooke / Island Social Trends]


According to the BC Hydro survey, 15 per cent of respondents will put up three or more inflatable and electronic displays, and about five per cent will put up between six and 15.

About 22 per cent of British Columbians are what BC Hydro has dubbed “enthusiasts”: those who put up an average of eight strands of lights. This number has increased almost 10 per cent in the last two years.

BC Hydro, usage
BC Hydro says the highest usage for holiday lighting will be in the BC south interior.

“Fanatics” are those who hang more than 10 strands and evoke a ‘Clark Griswold’ in National Lampoon Christmas Vacation mega display on their house and yard. This number has increased by more than three per cent in the last two years.

These decorators would certainly be dubbed “fanatics” by BC Hydro [web].

The award for most dedicated decorators will go to residents of the Southern Interior, with more than 70 per cent of respondents living in that area reporting that they will be putting up outdoor lights.

Increase the efficiency of your decorations:

BC Hydro has some tips for keeping the costs down while the lights are bright.

  • Switch to LEDs. Save about $40 over the holiday season by switching eight strands of incandescent lights to energy efficient LEDs. Older incandescent bulbs are up to 90 per cent less energy-efficient. LED holiday lights also last 10 times longer and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. They also produce less heat, reducing the risk of sparking a fire.
  • Plug into timers or use smart plugs to manage electricity use. Manage electricity costs by only having lights on when needed.
  • Using MyHydro: See how holiday decorating impacts electricity use by using the electricity tracking tools available on MyHydro, which can be accessed from a mobile device or at bchydro.com .
Put your indoor and outdoor lights on a timer to save electricity and manage holiday season costs.

Safe decorating practices:

There are lots of hazards to keep in mind while decorating and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

Be sure to use a properly insulated extension cable for outdoor decorations, and to avoid overloading outlets or circuits indoors. In general, use extension cords sparingly.

When using a ladder, make sure to only place it against stable surfaces, and to have someone holding it at ground level. A decorating buddy is always a good idea. Remember that ladders should be one metre out from the wall for every four metres up.

Keep fire safety measures in mind, and brush up on tips from the Office of the Fire Commissioner found on the IST website.

Have a bright and Merry Christmas!

Island Social Trends, Christmas banner 2020