Somewhere buried in the marriage vows must have been a statement that the male in the traditional marriage is solely responsible for hanging the outdoor Christmas lights. I’m not sure how that hidden clause escaped me on that whirlwind wedding day long ago, but over the last few decades, I’ve dutifully hauled out the stepladder in front of that ever-growing holly bush and turned it into the neighborhood burning bush. Hundreds, or more like thousands, of little twinkling lights adorn its many branches.
Once I plug in the long strand of lights, my electric meter begins to whirls a little faster every night during the holiday season, but boy does it look good (regardless of whatever carbon footprint it’s creating down the road at the coal-burning power plant).
Every season I need to replace some strands of lights and add a few more to accommodate the bush’s growth. A few years ago, when stocking up on the annual reinforcements at Home Depot, I noticed a new lighting option on the shelves…LED holiday lights.
What were these strange new gizmos, I wondered? Can they really reduce my CO2?
Those LED strings of 50 durable lights promise to last 25 times longer than the standard mini lights – which averages out to be about 25,000 to 50,000 hours. At that rate, my grandchildren will still be using my lights at the turn of the century! From a carbon footprint perspective, the box stated an 88 percent energy savings for the standard mini lights, only 4.8 watts per string versus 70+ watts for the mini incandescent bulbs. At $10 a box, it was worth a try.
The LED Burning Bush – Three years and 20+ new boxes later, my burning bush is an LED bush. Cool, bright and saving energy. The Washington Post reports that 500,000 U.S. homes could be powered for a year with the energy consumed by one season of holiday lights.¹ I figure my old outdoor lights were costing $70 per season in electricity – the same amount of electricity used to power a large window air conditioner. Now with the LED lights, it only costs me $12, which is equivalent to burning a 100-watt incandescent bulb. These new LED lights actually pay for themselves in three years. Plus, they last a lot longer and can be linked end-to-end up to 50 strings in a row for easier installation.
A box of LED bulbs costs about 10 cents per bulb, versus the incandescents, which run about 5 cents per bulb.² In terms of online product offerings at HomeDepot.com, it looks like it is currently neck and neck between incandescent (183) and LED (177 ) products. Next year, LED offerings will probably overtake the now inefficient products first introduced by GE in 1903. Let’s hope all those clunkers will be off the shelves in a year or so.
Home Depot provides information regarding everything you ever wanted to know about holiday lights. You can also check out Holiday LEDs. and Amazon has a wide selection.
What’s around the corner? The next generation is already here. Home Depot carriers a Sylvania 100-light LED Solar-Powered LED Micro Light Set for $22. It does not require any electricity, and has a built-in photocell so that lights turn on automatically and last eight hours when fully charged – but that may become an issue on cloudy and snowy winter days. Probably best for sunnier winter locations.
Make the switch to LED this holiday season and start the New Year with a little less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
(#1) The Washington Post – Home Section December 2, 2010.
(#2) Assumes seven hours per day over 30 days at a cost/kW of 18 cents (fully loaded with all taxes and fees). Incandescent electric operating cost per string 70 watts, whereas LED is only 4.8 cents.