Woman Receives $284-Billion Electric Bill. How Much Do Christmas Lights Normally Cost to Run?

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A man stops to admire Christmas lights on December 5, 2009 in Melksham, England. Matt Cardy/Getty Image

Exactly how much holiday cheer is too much? Pennsylvania resident Mary Horomanski recently received an electric bill for $284,460,000,000, forcing her to briefly consider whether her Christmas lights were responsible. That amount, as the Washington Post calculated, could net you all of Netflix, or perhaps 747 Boeing 747s.

“I opened it up and there it was,” she told the Post, before describing how she began counting the figure’s commas. “Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. Billions. . . . Can most people even count that high?”

Fortunately for Horomanski, the number ultimately proved to be an error on the part of her electric provider, Penelac. First Energy, the provider’s parent company, stated that a decimal point had been accidentally moved and corrected her bill to $284.46, according to the Associated Press.

“We had Christmas lights outside, but we don’t have the ‘[National Lampoon’s] Christmas Vacation’ lights,” Horomanski told the Post. “And I’m looking at my Christmas tree, and I’m like, no, that wouldn’t have caused it . . . ”

If you’re curious about exactly how many cents per kilowatt hour your home state spends per month, the United States Energy Information Administration records that information here. As for decoration-specific costs, in 2012 Wired performed some pretty in-depth calculations around the holiday-light electric-bill phenomenon and came up with a figure of $233 million—for the entire United States. Even the insanely well-lit house from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would run its fictional owners somewhere between $1.56 and $11 per day, depending on a few variables like bulbs and wattage. Old-school incandescent bulbs will run up a bigger tab than smaller, modern LEDs.

Calculations by the Denver Post found that large incandescent bulbs would cost a little over $15 to run 12 hours per day for 45 days. Similar-sized strings of LEDs, though, would cost just 21 cents. Even when working with mini lights, incandescents cost about $3.53 per string, per season, while LED minis could be substituted for a total cost of only 41 cents. Those who might find the savings most interesting, according to the Denver Post, are those who decorate using large C9 incandescent lights, which could cost around $60 over the course of the season.

NASA has reported that satellite data showed light output around major American cities was 20 to 50 percent greater around Christmas and New Year's, a phenomenon surpassed only in the Middle East during the month of Ramadan.