Switch off the central heating - Darrel keeps house warm with Christmas lights

11 November 2013   HARD-UP Darrel Piper heats his house with thousands of Christmas lights.
He says it’s cheaper than the central heating.
“Despite having thousands of lights up I find they’re cheaper to power than my heating,” said Darrel, 40, from Dumfries. “They’re about the equivalent of powering a 3kw fire.
He puts up his Christmas lights every September 1 and  has thousands of twinkling lights draped over every available space in his living room.
He says as well as being great to look at, there’s one huge bonus — the bulbs emit so much warmth that he can keep his expensive central heating system turned off into the New Year.
 “Once the lights are on for a while the place is like a sauna.
“I leave the doors open so the heat circulates through the house.
“Later on in winter, if it’s really cold in the morning, I’ll put the lights on first thing to warm the place up.”
He continued: “I put £15 a week on my electricity key card and £15 a fortnight on my gas card, which pays for my cooker and central heating.
“I try to spend only around a fiver on my gas at this time of year and that’s just for cooking, allowing the money to build up.
“Once I take the lights down after Christmas there will hopefully be enough on the gas card to pay for my heating into the spring.”
Darrel has thrombosis of the legs and is unable to work, so money is always a concern.
“I really don’t know how these heating companies expect people on low incomes to survive. For older people, it’s heat or eat.
“I stock up two big chest freezers whenever I can so I have emergency supplies of food when needed.
“These days I usually get money for Christmas presents and put it straight on to the meter cards. You just do what you have to do.”
Darrel’s love of Christmas lights started when he was a young boy.
“My dad only allowed one set on the tree and I told myself when I was old enough I would find as many lights as I could and put them up.
“I go around charity shops collecting old sets. I love fiddling with the lights and fixing them.
“I have 700 lights on the Christmas tree alone and thousands more around the room — on the walls, window, hanging from the ceiling. If I could put them on the floor, I would.
“It takes me a couple of days just to get all of the tangles out and then my friend puts them up for me.
“Everyone thinks I’m mad but I don’t care. The neighbours have come to expect it now.
“My mum stays around the corner and she knows if I’m in because you can see the lights from a distance.
“They put me in a great mood, I love them.
“I could stare at the lights all year round but I take them down on January 3 — it’d look stupid otherwise.”