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Holiday lights increase energy use

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, December 11, 2008

‘Tis the season for the sound of Christmas songs and the smell of Christmas cookies. And ’tis the season for Christmas decorations to adorn campus buildings.

But with strands of lights hanging in dorm hallways, individual dorm rooms and dining halls, it should come as no surprise that the Christmas season is also one of increased energy use.

While in the grand scheme of things Christmas lights are not significantly high-energy users, there are a few ways to decrease the amount of energy used during the Christmas season, said senior Lourdes Long, president of GreeND and an intern in the Office of Sustainability.

Long suggested two main ways to decrease energy use regarding Christmas lights -unplugging Christmas lights when they are not in use, and using Light-emitting diode (LED) lights, which are much more energy efficient.

“Just like the normal light bulb is no longer efficient, the same is true for Christmas lights. LED lights might be a little more expensive but they are sort of the next wave technology wise,” Long said.

However, junior Will Staruk, who is in charge of decorating Sorin College for Christmas, said that he wanted to switch to LED lights this year for efficiency reasons, but the cost played a factor.

“I have LED lights in my personal room but they are too expensive to use on a dorm-wide level,” said Staruk.

Although he could not purchase LED lights for the dorm, Sorin did reuse the decorations from last year and he said that the residence hall unplugs the Christmas lights during the day.

Carla McDonald, manager at North Dining Hall, estimated that there are slightly under 60 strands of lights that decorate the dining hall, which stay on for about 18 hours a day.

“We turn them on at 5 a.m. and turn them off around 11 p.m. when we leave,” said McDonald, who believes the lights are unplugged overnight, but could not say for sure since she does not work at night.

Director of Utilities Paul Kempf, said he does not normally notice an increase in the electrical bill during the Christmas seasom.

“I have never noticed any particular increase but the difficulty is: a) I don’t think Christmas lights are a significant load and b) they occur at night which is not when our load is at its peak,” said Kempf.

“For an operational standpoint, we don’t really notice,” he said. But he also added, “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a load.”

Other ways to decrease energy use during the Christmas season is to wrap presents in newspaper or recycled paper, Long said.

She also suggested “giving people stuff that they can reuse… gifts like a reusable mug or a reusable water bottle that people can use all year long.”