Over the years we have improved our Christmas decoration outside our house. Adding fun while cutting the need for energy.
It all started out many years ago with four chains of lights, each with twenty light bulbs. All our neighbours had nice decorations with white light bulbs, while ours where multicolored party lights. We put them in our only tree, a plum tree at our entrance. Neighbors where joking that they needed sunglasses to look at it. Next year I added a motion detector (http://www.clasohlson.no/ 36-1084). When people or cars pass by, the plum tree really lights up with its 80 x 5W of light bulbs. It gets even more attention than before. The motion detector has a built in timer and a light sensor. The timer is set to make the light go on for only 20 seconds, while the light sensor make sure the light goes on only when it is dark. This cut the daily energy use from a shocking 24h x 80 x 5W= 9.6kWh to an estimate of 0.5h x 80 x 5W=0.2kWh.
The year after when my wife was going to through away an old speaker, I got the next idea for the plum tree. Music! Christmas music! Together with the kids we compiled a CD with a mixture of traditional and crazy Christmas songs. This we put in an old CD Walkman, set on REPEAT ALL. This connects to an old amplifier that I bought used. Then comes the little trick with the speakers. Between the speaker and the amplifier there is a on/off switch controlled by the same outlet that turns on the plume tree light (a relay controlled by 230VAC, such as 36-1984 from Clas Ohlson, http://www.clasohlson.no/Product/Product.aspx?id=35483378). So when movement is detected the light comes on and the speaker is connected to the amplifier. Sparkling colors and Christmas music for 20 seconds or as long as there is movement outside our house. One year we had a mother and a small child visiting every day. The little boy wanted to hear the music and see the ligths. This reminded me that we should turn off the music at night when neighbor kids sleep with their windows slightly open, so I added a timer (32-3835 http://www.clasohlson.no/Product/Product.aspx?id=20823096 ) to the power line of the amplifier. The timer is set to be off between 11pm and 7 am. For a while I was worried that some people might dislike these lights, but I do believe they appreciate the fun and the surprise. Two days ago we had three teenage girls laughing loud outside. Walking back and forth a couple of times in some crazy disbelief of the musical-plume-Christmas-party-light-tree. This evening I left my cell phone video recoder on next to the tree for a while, and caught this comment from someone running by:
Perhaps you can adopt some of these ideas? If you already have some outdoor Christmas lights, please do go and get a timer to turn the lights off when most people are asleep and during the day time. Easy savings. Next time you add an outdoor outlet, have one made that is connected to a motion detector. Use it for your Christmas lighting, and perhaps you can come up with a fun use for Halloween too?