Posted by: JanF | November 27, 2011

LED there be lights

There are few things as delightful during the holiday season as the lights that decorate houses and landscaping in our neighborhoods. Not the crazy 100,000 light displays that make your eyes hurt but the lights outlining porches and the strands of bulbs in the evergreen in the front yard. Set against a snowy backdrop, for those of us who grew up in and live in the part of the country where we have snow, it is beautiful and somehow comforting because of its deep connection to our memories.

As a kid, my parents would bundle all of us up in the car and we would drive around the area in search of light displays. When we found one, we would collectively oooh and ahhh. It become so rote, that after a while the ooohs and ahhhs were somewhat forced and indeed even sarcastic but that made it funny. (Note: I come from a sarcastic family).

But holiday lights create guilt because they are not really necessary (we could have the winter holidays without them) and they use electric power which in most likely to be generated using non-renewable resources.

Now we can assuage the guilt (although not eliminate it completely) and still have some of the human-made beauty of the season.

LED Holiday Lights:

There is an energy efficient and practical option to consider when purchasing holiday lights. Light emitting diode (LED) holiday lights significantly reduce energy use, are safer and allow for more convenient bulb replacement.

•More energy efficient. LED holiday lights use up to 90 percent less energy than standard mini lights and up to 99 percent less energy than standard C-7 holiday lights.
•Longer lasting. LED lights can last up to 200,000 hours when used indoors, and some manufacturers also provide a five-year warranty.
•More convenient. LED holiday lights are available in 35 to 100-bulb strings in a variety of colors. If a bulb burns out, the other bulbs will stay lit so bad bulbs can easily be replaced.
•Safer. LED lights produce almost no radiant heat and don’t have the same components that cause traditional lights to burn out or combust.
•Sturdier. These bulbs won’t break. In fact the casing for the diode is solid plastic so it’s almost impossible to break.


Consumer Reports indicates that the LED wins in all categories but initial cost:

  Mini-size C7 size C9 size
  Incand. LED Incand. LED Incand. LED
Strings needed 2 2 2 3 2 3
Number of bulbs 100 140 50 75 50 75
Purchase price $14 $20 $20 $48 $22 $60
Operating cost $1.30 $0.30 $8 $0.14 $11 $0.14


My local electric company allows me to “buy” kilowatt hours of renewable energy (in my area that is wind energy) for an extra fee added to my electric bill.

Guilt assuaged even more.

(A version of this was originally posted on 12/2/2010 at BPI Campus)



  1. Hi Jan……I bought LED lights without realizing the color choices and the intensity of color was different. really tried……but the predominately purple and blue Christmas tree was just to annoying. So much to my families dismay, the tree was un decorated, and then re decorated with the old familiar lights…..grumble, grumble…..

    We now use the LED lights outside, where the bright colors are welcome, and softened by the misty rain.

    • They are different and I think that the prisms of the plastic case may be what make them intense. We have some indoor ones with all different colors.

      I hope as they become more popular that they address the issues you bring up because they really save money and non-renewable resources.

      Another unintended consequence of LED: In this part of the country, they moved to LED lights for traffic signals and because they do not burn as hotly, the snow does not melt when it is up against the LED lamp. So the lights get snowed in and people have to be paid to clean them out.

      There are no easy answers, are there?

  2. “So the lights get snowed in and people have to be paid to clean them out.”…so LED lights create jobs? That’s not a bad thing.

    • Ha! Good point. Although it is more likely to be outsourced to a private firm. Or maybe a good job for small children?