Britain loves its Christmas lights.  From the red-and-gold window displays in our local corner shops to the dazzling arrays in our town centres – including the lights in Staines High Street, which we helped to fund this year after council budget cuts. Yes, it’s the time when homes and businesses across the country switch on and step back to admire the festive glow of their annual traditions.

But are they remembering to switch off?  According to the Carbon Trust, UK businesses lose around £9 million over the holiday season by failing to turn their lights and equipment off – and that’s before you start to think about the carbon emissions that could have been avoided.

From flame to fairy lights

Christmas lighting dates back to 17th-century Germany, where the upper class first decorated their trees with candles. Before this time, the festive trees had no lights at all.

As the fashion for lit Christmas trees spread, affordability became an issue. As beeswax was costly, families poured tallow into walnut shells and lit that to form ‘candles’. Once stearin, and later, paraffin, were invented in the first half of the 19th century, cheap candles became more readily available.

These were followed by the first patented candle holder for Christmas trees in 1867. Before then, people used needles or hot wax or wrapped the candles to the tree branches.

But electricity soon changed this state of affairs. In 1895, US President Grover Cleveland had the White House tree decorated with electric candles in different colours. And in 1901, the General Electric Company advertised the first electric Christmas tree candles. From the 1950s onwards, more people began using electric candles for safety reasons.

But we’ve come a long way since the strings of incandescent bulbs used in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  Advances in LED technology mean that today’s Christmas lights can be smaller, longer lasting and more energy efficient. Which is good for your business’s electricity rates over the festive period.

Save money and energy over the holiday season

Those Christmas lights might look pretty to your customers and your staff.  But if no one’s looking, they’re just a waste of energy – and of your money.  According to the Carbon Trust, lighting the average office overnight wastes enough energy to heat a thousand cups of coffee – so just think what your decadent decorations are adding on top of that!

Switch off the lights when you head home for the night, and especially when you close up shop over Christmas itself.  And while you’re at it, switch off all those electrical appliances, too – equipment on standby could be using up to 90% of its normal power consumption.

It could also be worth making the switch to better forms of lighting.  LED bulbs generally have a longer life, are harder to break, use much less energy and don’t get as hot.  And, while they may come with a higher initial price tag, it’s usually offset by a reduction in maintenance and energy costs.

Switching off lights and making use of the best available technology isn’t just common sense, it’s also good business sense.  And while you’ll probably have to look after your Christmas decorations for a few more weeks yet, you can start to make changes now that can save you money and energy all year round.

Have you seen a substantial drop in your business’s energy costs after taking a more sensible approach to your lighting?  If so, let us know.

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