Deck the halls and spin the electric meters

The Christmas display in front of the Goodyears’ home in Dover usually takes about a week to set up. Dick Goodyear said that he often sees at least a 25 percent jump in his electric bill. (Submitted photo)

The Christmas display in front of the Goodyears’ home in Dover usually takes about a week to set up. Dick Goodyear said that he often sees at least a 25 percent jump in his electric bill. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — The stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time for indulging traditions. Some are cheap or free, like caroling, visiting Santa at various venues or watching a Christmas movie as a family. However, some can often send us in to the new year with lighter wallets — traditions such as gift shopping, buying and cooking feasts and decorating are notorious examples.

“Holiday energy costs all depend on how many lights and decorations you have plugged in,” said Jeremy Tucker, spokesman for the Delaware Electric Cooperative. “But energy bills do tend to be higher in December as decorations are set up and large family meals are cooked.”

Mr. Tucker said that, based on cost for power, running a 7.5-foot pre-lit tree with roughly 650 mini lights for eight hours a day for the entire month of December would cost about $12. An outdoor moving, lighted reindeer would use about an additional $5 over the course of the month.

Family tradition

For many, getting into the holiday spirit requires celebrating with bright lights and showmanship regardless of the costs — the Goodyears in Dover is one such family.

“My daughter, Maria, and I have been collecting holiday decorations since the 1970s, and we’ve been decorating every year since,” said Dick Goodyear. “We have so many decorations that we only use about a third of them. Now that my daughter is moving into a new house, we’ll probably use all of it between the two of us.”

Mr. Goodyear is proud of the collection he’s amassed. It includes lighted nativity, animal and horse-drawn carriage scenes in addition to myriad lights and ornaments that he annually festoons his front yard with.

“Pretty much any decoration you can think of, we have,” he said.

It normally takes the Goodyear family a full week to set up all their decorations and they like to have it done by Thanksgiving weekend.

Paul Parton places a plastic Santa Claus while decorating his yard for the Christmas season near Rising Sun. (Submitted photo)

Paul Parton places a plastic Santa Claus while decorating his yard for the Christmas season near Rising Sun. (Submitted photo)

“Maria and I do most of the work, my wife Anna who is handicapped, supervises,” he said. “We’re running behind schedule this year because my daughter is finishing moving in to her house, but we’ll probably have it all set up a few weeks before Christmas.”

The costs associated with the Goodyears’ decorating tradition are considerable — he said that he often sees at least a 25 percent jump in his electric bill.

“We usually pay about $225 per month for electric, but during December, it can get as high as $350 to $400,” he said.

They own so many decorations that they have had to rent out a 10-by-20 foot storage facility throughout the year to store them all.

“When we have all the stuff in storage, you can’t even fit anything else in there if you tried, that’s how much there is,” he said. “The rent to store it is $120 per month.”

As the decoration count mounted throughout the years, the family even needed to upgrade their electrical capacity to support the added load.

“We had to get our circuit breakers upgraded from 15 amps to 20 and 25 amps because too much power was going out,” Mr. Goodyear said. “Luckily we got a good deal from a friend on the work, but we would have probably paid close to $800 for the work we needed done.”

The Goodyear family does its best to be frugal when they can — they are currently transitioning many of their lights to the more efficient LED bulbs, and they do most of their decoration shopping during peak sales.

“A lot of our decorations that are 20 to 25 years old use up a ton of power, we are converting to LEDs now,” he said. “When my daughter and I are collecting decorations we look for the best sales. There are some good ones right after Thanksgiving, but the best are right after Christmas. You can often save up to 75 percent on them then.”

Savings tips

Although they’re in the business of providing electric, the co-op also has a gamut of cost-saving recommendations for the holiday season.

he Goodyear family of Dover own so many decorations that they have had to rent out a 10-by-20 foot storage facility throughout the year to store them all.  (Submitted photo)

he Goodyear family of Dover own so many decorations that they have had to rent out a 10-by-20 foot storage facility throughout the year to store them all. (Submitted photo)

“LEDs are a great start because they use 80 or 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, they also last longer — up to 20,000 hours,” said Mr. Tucker.

“Pressure cookers make a great gift and use 70 percent less energy than pots and pans to cook holiday meals. Also, if you’re enjoying a nice fire in your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed and the glass doors are sealed when the fire goes out. Otherwise the warm air in your house will go right out the chimney.”

Mr. Tucker also pointed out that low-flow shower heads can help homeowners cheaply accommodate the influx of guests during the holidays, but can also save a family of three up to $600 throughout the year.

Considering all his items packed into the storage unit, Mr. Goodyear thinks his decoration hoard probably represents about a $6,000 investment.

“Realistically, we probably would have paid $10,000 to $12,000 if we didn’t take advantage of the after-Christmas sales,” he said.

But for the Goodyears, the costs associated with the season aren’t what’s important.

“We like Christmas, we enjoy it. For us, decorating is a family thing,” said Mr. Goodyear.

“It’s nice because we’ve kept adding on to it every year and everybody in our neighborhood seems to look forward to it. We had people driving by our house one night and they were backed up like 15 or 20 cars long to come look at our lights. So we do it for our own pride too.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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