Nothing stirs up a bit of friendly neighbourhood one-upmanship like Christmas light season. It starts with a few coloured lights above the doorway and before you know it you're choreographing professional-grade light shows to AC/DC's Thunderstruck. But whether you’re hanging a few bulbs on your Christmas tree or transforming your house into a setpiece from the Tron franchise, here are five tips to ensure that your Christmas light extravaganza doesn't come with an unexpectedly extravagant price tag.
Planning makes perfect
This might seem almost too simple, but the best way to blow a hole in your budget is to start buying lights without any idea what you’re going to do with them. Sit down, get a big sheet of paper, draw a diagram of your house and start working out exactly what you want your Christmas lights to look like – and how you’re going to make it happen.
There’s always going to be a risk when you’re exposing high-voltage electronics to the elements, but there are a few simple ways you can keep your set-up safe.
- Use proper weatherproofing. This includes getting weatherproof cable boxes and ensuring your transformers are all shielded from both water and dirt.
- Only buy Australian Standard compliant lights. Those incredibly cheap lights are cheap for a reason. Look for a C-Tick or Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) – these mean they’ve been approved to an Australian electrical standard.
- Don’t skimp on the extension leads and power boards. We know it’s tempting to buy cheap electrical connectors from the discount shop, but they’re going to be poorly built, uncertified, and unable to handle even a moderate power surge.
- If Christmas lights are going to be your thing – and why wouldn't they? – consider getting a qualified electrician to install weatherproof power points around your home.
LEDs or bust
The quickest and easiest way to cut down on your Christmas power bills is to make sure your lights are powered by low-watt LED bulbs. LEDs use 75 per cent less power, and last 25 times longer and are much safer than incandescent bulbs – especially when it comes to exterior lighting. Some LED lights even come with their own solar charger, which gives you an indication of exactly how little power they consume.
Three’s the charm
The best things in life come in threes: Stooges, Hemsworth brothers, the Hangover movies. The same rule applies to your Christmas lights. You’ll be tempted to run the entire operation off a single power point, but you should never connect more than three strings to the same outlet. By a similar token, always try to keep equal length strings of lights together. Different lengths tend to have different amperages, so if you start mixing and matching you increase your risk of overload, as well as putting a dent in your energy efficiency.
Timing is everything
Take the guesswork out of your lighting schedule by hooking up your rig to a timer. That way you can ensure they turn on when the sun goes down, and turn off when everyone’s gone to sleep.
Lighting up your place for Christmas is a perfect way to create community bonhomie – and with these energy-saving tips you won’t need to put a lump of coal in the kids’ stockings.