Battery-operated vs plug-in lights – which are cheaper to run this Christmas?

Posted by Andi

As the Christmas period gets closer and we start putting up our Christmas tree and decorations, you may also be worried about the cost of the extra electricity from things like lights on the Christmas tree. In this blog, we will answer which are the cheapest type of lights and help you save a bit of money over Christmas. 

How much does it cost to use plug-in fairy lights?

No fairy lights running costs are the same as it depends on what type of lights you’re using, how long you keep them on and how many lights you use. 

Christmas Lights

According to Uswitch, the average household puts Christmas lights up from 26 November to 6 Jan (43 days) and says households tend to keep lights on for 6 hours per day. 

Some fairy lights cost as little as 1p to run per hour, for example, the 400 LED Mains Powered Multicoloured lights from Dunelm, the retailer has displayed on their website. This means it costs the average household 6p per day and £2.58 for 43 days to run (based on the current 0.34p kWh energy price cap). 

But the cost of fairy lights can vary, for example, Dunelm’s 1500 LED White Cluster Lights cost 3p per hour to run as shown on their website. That works out to be 18p per day if lights are on for 6 hours every day and £7.74 for 43 days. 

That’s a £5.16 price difference in cost to run and the 400 LED lights cost £25, whereas the 1500 LED lights cost nearly double at £45. 

In the grand scheme of things, running plug-in lights over the Christmas period is not a huge expense but right now every penny counts, so you might want to look at alternatives. Buying a set with fewer lights is the cheapest to run and cheapest to buy.

How much does it cost to use battery-operated fairy lights?

The difference with battery-operated fairy lights is you’re not technically consuming energy from your home, but from the battery instead. 

So the running cost of battery-operated fairy lights depends on how much the batteries cost, how long they last and how long you have your lights on. 

Most battery-operated fairy lights use AA batteries and whilst the quality and cost of batteries vary considerably, we are going to use an example from Argos in which you can get a pack of 4 Duracell AA batteries for £4.25 or a pack of 12 which is £7.50.

Our research has found that typically 2 to 3 AA batteries in fairy lights last for up to 50 hours. So if you take that as a benchmark, the average family has its fairy lights on for 6 hours a day over 43 days to cover Christmas, so after every 6 days, your batteries would need changing. This means you would need to change the batteries at least 8 times to cover 43 days, and for batteries to last you over these 43 days, you would need 24 batteries. 

If you buy the AA batteries from Argos, that’s 2 packs of 12 which would cost £15. That’s a hefty price to keep fairy lights running over Christmas.

The verdict

Type of lightsUpfront costEnergy cost (6 hours per day over 43 days)
Plug-in£5-45£2.58 – £7.74
Battery operated£5 – £10£15

To keep energy costs low over Christmas, opt for a set of plug-in lights with fewer lights such as 400 rather than 1500. 


Click here for information on how to reduce your energy bills

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