See what is happening in Chicago this month! [Read more…]
5-8 SOFA Expo
11 VETERANS DAY CEREMONY – Soldier Field
13 MC CORMICK TRIBUNE ICE RINK OPENS – Millenium Park
21 Magnificent Mile Festival of Lights
25 102nd CHICAGO’S TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY – Daley Plaza
26 TURKEY DAY 5-K
26 THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE 27 – Jan 3 Winter Flower and Train Show
27-29 ZOO LIGHTS Lincoln Park Zoo
Just a friendly reminder to set your clocks back one hour this Sunday. And, don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors!
Daylight Saving Time was born of necessity during World War I and II. Going to bed hours after sundown, people relied upon artificially generated light, depleting fuel reserves. Germany realized that this precious commodity could better be used to serve the war effort, and instituted the first daylight saving laws in 1915. England followed suit in 1916, and the United States, in 1918.
Published: December 12, 2011
Last year we started a conversation about the energy costs of Christmas lights displays. We think it’s worth pursuing this year: What’s your take? Are they a waste of energy or something that shouldn’t have a price tag attached?
Last Christmastime, we were so blown away by the Faucher family’s million-bulb holiday light show in Delaware that we did what HouseLogic does — calculate how much the dazzler costs to power up for a month: $82,320!
At least according to an online calculator we found.
Well, the post went viral and caused a quite a hubbub.
Some commenters called the Fauchers planet killers: “OMG does this guy not realize that there is something called GLOBAL WARMING that is threatening to destroy the planet and that all of these useless and ugly lights are making this problem so much worse!”
Some called dissenters the Grinches who stole Christmas lights: “I think it’ s great, something bright and happy to look at in these days of doom and gloom.”
And some just disputed our math and called the numbers “bogus.”
Our favorite comment came from “Santa Claus, New Castle, Delaware” (but we’re pretty sure someone in the Faucher family wrote it.)
The writer called the article “informative and very well written” — thanks Santa! — but said that his energy bill isn’t anywhere near $82,000.
“I use very energy-efficient lights,” he wrote. “However, it could be 5 dollars and still someone would find a reason why I should have spent it elsewhere for something more worthwhile … To me and my family, if for about a penny a child we can bring a smile and a memory, it is all worth it!”
We tried to reach Wilmington’s Santa for an update, but this is his busy season and he didn’t call us back. Instead, we talked the Smith family in North Delaware, who told us all about their 400,000-bulb light display. (What is it with Delaware and over-the-top holiday lights? Anyway, I’ll be posting some tips from the Smiths tomorrow.
But mainly, we’re curious about your reaction, since saving energy is pocketbook-smart — but holiday cheer, after all, is priceless.
So, do you vote for “pocketbook” or “priceless”? Why?
How do real Christmas trees and fake Christmas trees stack up when it comes to the environment and cost? We’ve got the dirt.
Real Christmas trees are better for the environment than fake Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model.
In terms of price there’s not much difference between the real and fake varieties, unless you get really fancy with a fake. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, the real deal runs about $20 to $150 annually.
You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for less than $20 at some big-box retailers. Prices go up from there to as much as $430 for a deluxe, already-lit number. Keep a faux tree in the family for at least a decade to goose up your holiday gift fund and mitigate the pileup in your local landfill.
If you insist on replacing your fake tree every year to change things up, donate your old one to a charity, a resale shop, or Freecycle.
All I Want for Christmas is the Greenest of Trees. What Do I Look For?
- Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil — farmers only till the land once every six or eight years.If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.
- Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.
Related: 9 Winter Plants that Dazzle Even in the Snow
Here’s how to light up your Christmas light display safely and economically.
Christmas lights can be modest displays to show good cheer, or million-bulb light-apaloozas that draw gawkers from near and far. Here are some tips on how to get the most from — and spend the least on — your holiday display.
1. Safety first. Emergency rooms are filled with homeowners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.
2. Unpack carefully. Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.
3. Extension cords are your friends. Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.
4. LEDs cost less to light. LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.
5. Solar lights cost nothing to run. Solar Christmas lights are roughly four times more expensive to buy than LEDs, but they cost zero to run. They’re a bright-burning, green alternative. Downside: If there’s no sun during the day, there’s no light at night. The jury’s also still out on how long they last; they’re too new on the market for results.
6. Dismantle lights sooner than later. Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.
7. Plan next year’s display on Dec. 26. Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).
8. Permanent attachments save time. If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.
9. Find those blueprints. Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.
10. Store them in a ball. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.
Is your front entryway ready for Halloween visitors? Keep everything fun and accident-free with these seven safety tips.
Everyone loves a good scare on Halloween — as long as it’s just a trick.
To help you avoid any real-life scares — such as falls, fires, and traffic accidents — around your property this All Hallows Eve, play it safe while you’re setting up your Halloween lights and decorations.
Here are seven simple precautions recommended by John Pettibone, curator of Hammond Castle, a Gloucester, Mass., mansion that draws thousands to its renowned 20-room haunted house every Halloween season.
1. Light the Scene
Providing plenty of illumination ensures that your visitors can see where they’re walking, helping to avoid missteps and falls. Pettibone suggests using the highest wattage bulbs your outdoor lighting fixtures can safely take (check the label on the socket), and adding landscape lights every few feet along your front walk.
“We use the solar-powered kind because there’s no wiring needed,” he says. “Just push them into the ground, let them soak up the sun during the day, and they’ll light up the walk after dark.”
2. Secure the Footing
Clear your walk, steps, and stoop of any obstructions that could trip youngsters focused more on tricks and treats than watching where they’re going. That means moving potted mums and jack o’lanterns out of the way, and hammering down any nail heads protruding out of your steps.
If you have a concrete stoop, which can get slippery when wet, apply friction tape ($16 for a 60-foot roll of 1-inch-wide tape) to ensure stable footing, says Pettibone. He also stocks up on chemical ice melt ($20 for a 50-lb. bag) just in case of an early freeze.
3. Tighten the Railings
If your porch railings are wobbly or broken, family members and friends may know not to lean too heavily on them, but Halloween visitors won’t. So hire a contractor or handyman to fix the problem. It’ll make your home safer for guests all year round. Because more strangers come to your front door this night than the rest of the year combined, now is the time to take care of it.
4. Eliminate Fire Hazards
Don’t put real candles into your carved pumpkins or paper lanterns. “That’s a fire waiting to happen,” says Pettibone. Instead, pick up a bulk pack of LED-bulb faux candles, which emit a yellowish, flickering, battery-powered light that looks amazingly similar to the real thing — without the danger.
5. Secure your Property
To prevent burglaries and Halloween pranks — especially on mischief night the previous evening — make sure to keep all windows and doors (other than your main door) locked shut.
You might have an electrician add motion-sensor lights around your property, so anyone who walks down your driveway or around into the backyard will be discouraged from intruding any farther.
6. Set the Scene
In addition to spooky items like cotton cobwebs and half-buried skeletons, consider a few safety-related scene-setters. Pettibone suggests propping open the screen or storm door so it doesn’t get in the way when there’s a big group of kids congregated on your stoop. “We use yellow caution tape to tie open the door,” he says. “You can order it online and it works well with the Halloween theme.” A 1,000-ft. roll of 3-inch-wide caution tape is about $8.
You’ll also want a working doorbell, so if yours is broken, either hire an electrician or handyman to fix it — or install a wireless doorbell in its place.
7. Enhance Street Safety
Four times as many child pedestrians get killed on Halloween night than a normal night. So limit the danger as much as you can by clearing parked cars off the curb to allow better visibility and placing a reflective “watch for children sign” at the edge of the road. For for high-traffic roads in Halloween-intensive neighborhoods, consider posting an adult in the street with a hand-held traffic control light to help maintain safety.