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Christmas lights are not the answer to expensive energy

18 November 2013

5:24 PM

18 November 2013

5:24 PM

It’s tough in Scotland. Faced with the prospect of a bitingly cold winter, fuel poverty and abandoning the Union, some of its residents have taken extreme measures to survive. ITV News reports that Darrel Piper of Dumfries has decided to heat his home with Christmas decorations instead of paying to run his heating system:

‘The 40-year-old says that he puts £30 in the electricity meter every fortnight and £5 in the gas meter to use for cooking. He says that if he didn’t have the lights it would cost £60 a fortnight for the gas and electricity.’

Although Mr Piper apparently doesn’t leave the lights on when he’s out, and argues the trip switch would catch any problems, it can’t be a particularly safe answer to cheaper energy. The ITV report advises viewers it is ‘not advisable’ to follow his example.

His financial calculations don’t appear to be very accurate either. Although it’s not presently known which energy provider Mr Piper has chosen, The Independent suggested that an average display of lights will consume the equivalent of an entire average household’s electricity for 23 days over the festive period.


For something more scientific: London property firm PGS estimates a 1000 mini-filament set of lights would cost £14.23 if it were on for six hours every day over the Christmas period. Given how many lights Darrel appears to have in and around his property, plus the need to have them on longer to keep his home warm, the £25 saved by not turning his heating on seems implausible.

Plus, the actual heat given out by the lights must be minimal. Maybe he is so dazed by the decorations he is quite unaware of the heat levels in his house? Instead of take the risk that his property may burn down, Darrel would do well to listen to the Prime Minister and shop around for a better energy deal.

UPDATE: A colleague has pointed out that tealights and flowerpots may be a more efficient way of heating your home through unconventional means. The Daily Mail have the details here.

HS2_trainThe Energy Secretary Ed Davey will be speaking at The Spectator’s ‘How do we stop the lights going out?’ conference on 2 December 2013 in  London. Click here for more information.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Akira Seung

    best to carry out a full comparison to find the best cheap energy plan for
    you. Learn more from

  • Born Again Ministry


    Twinkle Light Christmas
    Tree. Raise your hand if there is a dead tomato/basil/blueberry plant
    freezing in your yard! Mine has a nice little plant cemetery going.

  • ZUbair Kagdi

    Nice and smart data containing blog. I liked the post and even the picture.

  • argonsac

    I think Mr. Piper is blowing a lot of hot air.Wind and up.

  • Paul Ryan Lee

    He could heat the house using PC’s and mine bitcoin with them at the same time I guess as a hedge against rising energy prices. At least a computer is useful. Just stick some ASIC chips in unused USB ports. Just to add that BTC mined won’t pay the cost of the electricity to mine them, you are betting on continued appreciation of the digital currency.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “Christmas lights are not the answer to expensive energy”

    No, but they look so cheerily 1950s. . .

  • Fraser

    He could wear a jumper.

  • Russell

    A classic picture of the average Labour voter, and their economic expertise!

  • David Booth.

    Typical Dumfries numpty, par for the course up here.

  • Neotelemachus

    Might I suggest fewer decorations and more exercise?

  • London Calling

    Thank you very much…….:O

  • London Calling

    Thermal underwear and a wind up torch and radio……Thank

  • dalai guevara

    “… average household’s electricity for 23 days over the festive period.”

    23 days? That would be blissful, yet still a gross prolongation of the actual event.
    Christmas now stretches from 12 Nov to 7 Jan. What TF?

    • Hello

      It’s capitalism gone mad, you know? I’m shaking my fists angrily at the audacity of it all. Grrr. Those darned capitalists. Damn them. Damn them I tell you.

      • dalai guevara

        It’s FAQing insane to start this nonsense now. There was a time when ‘advent’ curtailed the affair. But you lot just appear blissfully unaware of tradition, you just know no boundaries, it’s just always about money money money for you, some of you now even contemplate making others eat horse. Jeez Louise.

    • fathomwest

      Not if you use plastic plant pots instead of terracotta ones. The candles will not last four hours though and the H&S brigade will be coughing up bricks now.

      • dalai guevara

        I’ll tell you what works – it’s called a ‘junk mail bonfire’.
        Clear your living room floor, line an area of your choice with flagging, Yorkshire stone or Corten sheeting (purists who wish to see the Flokati shine through please use Pilkington Pyrostop 2h fire and radition proof glazing, no gaps between glazing joints permitted), create a pile of junk mail as high as you possible can, pour a good Jamie Oliver-style helping of cooking oil over it, set alight, open/close door to regulate the flow of oxygen.
        Toast! The calorific value of that – unbeatable…and it’s free!

        • fathomwest

          dalai, That is a superb suggestion and one that needs greater coverage. With your knowledge it may be a great suggestion for you to film it and place it on Utube. You will have an instant hit I am sure.A win-win-win-WIN

          • dalai guevara

            I just cannot stop, I have another one for you:

            go to your kitchen, you’ve got an extractor fan not too far from your stainless steel sink, right? Fill the kitchen sink with old newspaper and left over carbohydrates. Pour a generous helping of virgin olive oil over the lot. Close all your doors and windows and use the extractor fan to regulate oxygen flow and height of flames. Wow, this is so efficient!

            nb. next up – the bathroom. You would have guessed by now where I am going with this…

            • fathomwest

              nb suggestion has already been done and resulted in a very unfortunate accident to that inventor, God rest his soul. Took an age to scrape him off the wall.
              As for your latest invention. Sorry no old newspapers, they are placed in the council bin for newspapers. Similarily carbohydrates are placed in a sealed bag in yet another council bin. We now have seven council bins! On top of that no virgins in this neck of the woods.
              Think of a suggestion involving council bins.

              • dalai guevara

                Well, then off the bathroom with you. Hurry, before the wife figures out what’s going on – she will have some nail varnish stored away somewhere, and some hairspray, surely.
                Fill your enamel bath tub, or if that does not suit, take off the cistern cover, turn it on its head, that will do.
                Pour all the girlie toiletries you can find into it, step back, light a cigarette lighter, then direct the hairspray onto the concoction from a safe distance setting fire to the lot.
                I have saved your life thrice from certain death as a result of fuel poverty. Time to be thankful?

                • fathomwest

                  DG, Not just thankful, eternally thankful. Did the bathroom experiment and I must have done something wrong. I now smell rather exotic and my wife believes I have been entertaining a host of women this afternoon.

  • Leon Steed

    I notice in the photo he isn’t wearing a jumper …

    • London Calling

      I note………..he doesn’t need a jumper………:O

    • In2minds

      First fuel poverty and now jumper poverty|?

    • Span Ows

      I note 3 or 4 remotes and an aquarium…

  • Swiss Bob

    Christmas lights are not the answer to expensive energy


    Perhaps Ed Miliband is foaming at the mouth for joy knowing how much he’s contributing to reducing Britain’s population this winter.