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There are more than 150 million Christmas light sets sold each year, and when you think about the size of today’s Christmas displays, that may not be so hard to believe. Every year Americans challenge themselves to go bigger and brighter than the year before or at least bigger than our neighbors. 

Christmas lighting has taken on the form of friendly competition in neighborhoods across the country. As we prepare the menu for our holiday feast, finish wrapping the presents to put under the tree and make sure the mistletoe is hung in the exact right spot, we also consider the strings of brilliance hanging from our neighbor’s eaves. 

But where does this sense of competition come from? Who started the idea of bigger and brighter? Well… 

how much electricity, How Much Electricity Did Clark Griswold’s Christmas Vacation Display Use?

Okay, we admit Clark Griswold may not have started it all, but it’s a solid point of origin if you ask us. Any comparison that could be made should be made against the absurdity of the Griswold house on Christmas Eve. 

25,000 lights shone from that infamous display when Clark finally turned it on, only to knock out the rest of the city’s power. It’s one of the classic moments in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). As an electric company, we would feel remiss if we didn’t ask ourselves how much electricity it took to light up such an exhibition. So, we took some time to figure it out for ourselves. 

How Much Wattage is That? 

First, we must start with the basics. What kind of lights did Griswold use? In the movie, Clark states that he used 250 strands of 100-count “imported Italian twinkle lights.” Currently, the energy-efficient LEDs weren’t available, so it’s safe to assume that Clark was running the old incandescent lights (which at 25,000 bulbs is a fire hazard!

Now there’s an interesting bit of trivia here because, in the film, we see Clark’s boxes of lights are labeled C9, and anyone who has ever put up lights for Christmas knows that the C9 bulbs are rather large and a strand of 100 lights wouldn’t fit in one of those boxes. So, we’ll blame Hollywood here and carry on. 

A C9 incandescent bulb uses around 7 watts per bulb, and if we multiply that by the 25,000 bulbs that Clark claims to have, then we push our usage to 175,000 watts or 175 kW. Considering that the average house uses  30KW daily, it’s not surprising to see Clark’s meter spinning out of control! 

how much electricity, How Much Electricity Did Clark Griswold’s Christmas Vacation Display Use?

So now for the real question. 

How Much Did it Cost to Light the Griswold House? 

In 1989 electricity prices were $0.082 per kWh, so each kWh (Kilowatt Hour) would have cost $14.35. A 12-hour period would have cost $172.20, and considering that Clark finally got his lights working on Christmas Eve, we’ll say he left them up for the rest of December, which would create a total of $1205.40. In comparison, the same display today would cost $2,072.70. 

There are Better Lighting Solutions 

Thankfully, today, there are better options for creating your expansive Christmas display. The idea of going big doesn’t mean you have to break the bank or the rest of the city’s electricity. LEDs minimize the amount of wattage each bulb uses while producing brilliant light. As electric prices continue to inflate, electric companies create solutions to help you save money. Don’t Griswold your Christmas. If you’re looking for smart lighting solutions or need advice on how to save money this Christmas season or all year round, give SPS Electric a call. 

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