Save money during the holidays

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, November 16, 2013

Temperatures are dropping, holiday displays are going up and this means residents are using more electricity than normal to make their holiday season warm and bright.

Jeff Shepard, a spokesperson with Mississippi Power, said the company typically sees an increase in usage during the peak winter months of January and February.

April Lollar, a communication specialist at Coast Electric Power Association, said the increase in electricity usage is more related to the cold weather, especially over the last few years.

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“Coast Electric does see more use in cold weather, but that is really due to people running the heat in their homes, more so than light displays,” Lollar said. “Of course, those who do have light displays will see their use increase, but it would still be less than, for example, someone who runs a pool pump.”

She recommends setting the thermostat at 68 degrees during the winter months to help conserve on your electricity.

With lighting getting more and more cost efficient each year, there are ways for residents to keep their electricity bills from skyrocketing in December when their lights are on display.

“Using the latest technology such as LED lights, which use approximately 90 percent less electricity than regular lights, and limiting the time that lights are on are two easy steps people can take to manage their energy costs during the holiday season,” Shepard said.

Lollar said LED lights have an operational life of about 20,000 hours, which should last about 40 holiday seasons. They are more resistant to breaking because they don’t have glass or filaments. Because LEDs use less energy, they are safer to connect multiple strands end-to-end without overloading wall sockets. They also are cooler to the touch, reducing the risk of fire.

Shepard said that Mississippi Power has seen only a slight decrease in the amount of electricity customers use because, despite the increased popularity of LED lights, many residents still use “the traditional type of holiday lighting.”

“Those who want to keep costs down should consider using LED lights for their displays. While they do cost more per strand, they tend to last longer and use less energy. Look for brands and manufacturers of ENERGY STAR-qualified LED decorative light strings at,” Lollar said.

Shepard said most of the calls the company receives during the holiday season is because customers’ lights will flicker if circuits are overloaded. He said to avoid this problem, use properly rated extension cords and plug lights into multiple outlets.

Coast Electric recommends the Time of Use Rate plan available to customers, which can be helpful on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day when having guests over and cooking for longer hours causes a higher electricity usage than normal.

Lollar said the plan allows members to save based on the time of day they use electricity. By reducing electric use during peak times, customers have an opportunity to decrease their annual energy costs without reducing the overall amount of electricity a customer uses. The winter peak times are 6-8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“That means that if you can use less energy for those two hours of the day, you can save the other 22 hours of the day. Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are also off-peak all day, meaning that you will pay a lower rate on the days when your home might see more use because more people are at your house, you are cooking more, etc. It is a great program that can really allow folks to save,” Lollar said.

For more information, customers can go to

Both Coast Electric and Mississippi Power had some safety tips for residents during the holiday season.

“Always think ‘Safety First.’ Be cautious when installing exterior lights, especially if a ladder is required. Do not install lights on the service mast or in close proximity to the electrical wires providing power to your home. Use UL rated extension cords only. UL is an independent safety science company that promotes safe living and working environments. Do not overload extension cords or circuits and make sure lights are rated for where they will be displayed (Interior vs. Exterior),” Shepard said.

Lollar said that most lights are designed to connect no more than three strands. Inspect the wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch. Replace strands that show any signs damage, broken bulbs, or loose connections. Faulty lights can send an electrical charge through a tree and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with a branch. Also, never leave lights on overnight when no one is home.

She said to make sure an artificial tree is fire resistant, but be aware that fire resistant doesn’t mean fire proof. If a resident has a live tree, make sure it is fresh and green. Dry, brittle limbs and needles are “a breeding ground for sparks.” Water the live tree regularly to prevent it from drying out. Don’t place any tree close to heat sources, such as fireplace, vents or radiators.

Lastly, Lollar said to select gifts that are age appropriate for the recipient. Toys recommended for older children pose too many risks for younger children to use safely. Also, educate children on electrical safety when using any new toy or product that requires an electrical connection.

“I would just recommend that everyone pay attention to the safety tips above. We want everyone to have a merry and bright Christmas, so we want them to be safe when they are decorating and making their homes beautiful for the holidays,” Lollar said.