How much power do we use on Christmas?

With the December holidays rapidly approaching, I’ve been wondering about how much extra power we use on Christmas. A neat post on Wired back in 2012 calculated the cost of those little Christmas lights at about $1.56 per day, but what about baking the Christmas ham? And what about all the consumer electronics that would otherwise be silent with their owners at work? Because hey, one fun part about Christmas is slipping away from your family to plug in the electronic loot you just unwrapped.

We use electricity almost constantly, but unlike other products it’s often hard to know how much you’re using. The difficulty involved with tracking your energy use has given rise to companies like Chai, a free service that provides detailed information about when and how items in your home consume energy. In fact, Chai was kind enough to give me (anonymized) hourly use data on 500 of its residential customers! Awesome.

So back to the good stuff: how’s our juice use on Christmas? Let’s plot average daily energy use on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, and compare it to energy use on a typical winter day:

Ho ho ho! The shaded regions represent standard error.
The graph above shows us a few cool things:

  1. We use more energy during the Christmas holidays than on a normal winter day. The biggest difference happens between 7:00-14:00 (7am-2pm) on Christmas Day. Time to open presents!
  2. People don’t tend to sleep in on Christmas! Really. Note how the red and blue lines track together in the early morning: they start low and begin to rise at the same time. If most people slept in we’d expect the red line to be shifted to the right.
  3. Unless you’re Santa (or a Chinese food restaurant), there’s no work on Christmas. We can see that here: on a normal morning, energy use starts to fall at 8:00am as people leave for work. But on Christmas morning energy use doesn’t fall until later, around 10:00am.
  4. And lastly, this is a cool one: Santa starts putting presents under the tree shortly after midnight Christmas Eve. Note how the energy use stays high as he turns the lights on to help him see. He might also be using some energy to charge his reindeer, which are probably sweet robots by now.


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Want more data visualization? Check out my other posts at:


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