Celebrants say the festive spirit worth the cost of holiday lighting

Illuminating expenditures

Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2002

'Tis the season to decorate with lights. For this reason, many homes and businesses are decorated with colorful lights to celebrate the holidays. Some of the light displays are elaborate. Others are more simple.

The added lighting during the season comes with a cost -- higher energy bills. But do Christmas revelers think it is worth the additional expense?

"I do, sadly enough," said Molly Mahurin of Soldotna. "We do it just for the Christmas spirit to get the neighborhood in the mood."

Mahurin said her household electrical bill increases to between $75 and $100 during December. She said the expense grew after she and her family moved into a larger home three years ago, so they are making a conscious effort this year to trim lighting usage.

"It made a big difference," Mahurin said. "Usually, we would plug them in for the whole time. But we've started cutting them off after midnight and cutting them back on again at 5 a.m."

Even so, she said she doesn't see her holiday lights as a huge production.

"I think that ours is just classic," Mahurin said. "It's a little more than average. I can't imagine what some people with those big displays pay."

Sterling resident Annette Finch said lighting probably doubles her electric bill, raising it to as much as $150.

"It's huge," she said. "We have a lot of lights. We have more than we had last year. But we're used to having a large bill because we run an RV park during the summer."

Finch said her cabin at Mile 84 on the Sterling Highway is decorated for the benefit of all those passing by.

"We really think it's for the the community," she said. "During the long winter months, it's nice to see. So many people tell us how much they enjoy it. That's the joy of doing it."

Homer Electric Association spokesperson Joe Gallagher said the effect that Christmas lights have on the sale of kilowatt hours is very minimal.

"It can't be broken out, but it's just a very insignificant part of the overall picture," Gallagher said. "For example, three strands of typical icicle lights (50 bulbs per strand) costs about 3/4 of a cent to run per hour."

Homer Electric is sponsoring the prizes for both the Kenai and Soldotna chamber Christmas lights contests. First place residential entrants receive a $50 HEA energy credit, and commercial winners are credited $100.

Kenai Electric Supply has four large animated figures perched above the entrance; a Santa, Mrs. Claus, a helper and a reindeer. Owner Clarice Kipp said she didn't know how much, but she knew the motorized parts of the figures she built with her son, Jeff, increases the business's energy bill during the holidays. She said she was never concerned about the cost, however.

"We didn't even consider it," Kipp said. "I'm sure it affects our bill. It was just fun. That's all."

Along with several hundred lights around his home, Richard Quick of Soldotna has several illuminated Santa Claus figurines around his property. From a shiny Santa hanging in a tree in his driveway to a Santa and eight tiny reindeer lit up atop his home, he said his property, located back from the Sterling Highway, can be easily seen from the highway.

Although he said the largest spike he has seen to his bill is about $20, he feels it is worth the price.

"When people pull into my circle driveway at night I know that they came to see the lights," Quick said. "That gives me some enjoyment."

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