Energy Efficient LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas lights are festive and good for the planet.

Out of Focus Colored Christmas Lights against a Blue Background

You can make your holiday traditions more environmentally friendly by switching to energy saving LED Christmas lights.

Typically, I do not advocate getting rid of things that still work to replace them with more energy efficient models. This is because making even simple products uses resources, energy, and people power so it seems wasteful to dispose of products until they reach the end of their useful life and are not repairable.

That said, I think that the energy savings that LED Christmas lights can achieve is worth getting rid of operable incandescent Christmas lights and replacing them with LED lights.

Currently, in the United States, we generate 65% of our electricity by burning fossil fuels (34% natural gas, 30% coal, and 1% petroleum). You and I can help reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing our electricity use. With a population of over 326 million people, even small changes made by Americans can make a positive impact.

In this post, I will attempt to convince you to make the switch to LED Christmas lights and then provide some shopping tips.

Christmas Light Energy Efficiency – Incandescent vs. LED

In the 19th century and before, the only way to light a Christmas tree was with candles, which probably caused quite a few house fires. Fortunately, in 1882, Thomas Edison’s friend and business partner, Edward H. Johnson, created the first string of electric Christmas tree lights, which were safer than candles although back then electricity was not as safe as it is today. As electricity safety improved and it became more affordable, Christmas lights became popular outdoors, too.

During the past hundred years or so, incandescent Christmas lights have undergone technical advancement and design enhancement. They provide a pleasant warm light, but also convert a lot of their energy into heat instead of light. You can still buy incandescent Christmas lights but LED lights use up to 80% less energy, do not generate heat, and last about 25 times longer, thus making them the eco-friendly choice.

There is a wide variety of Christmas lights on the market today and making apples to apples comparisons can be a bit tricky. For instance, strings of classic C9 incandescent bulbs usually contain 25 bulbs, while most incandescent mini and LED light strings contain either 50 or 100 bulbs. Convoluting matters further, is that there is no regulation for the type and number of strings you may put on and in your home, a protocol for how many hours a day you may run your lights or an official definition of how many days constitutes the holiday season.

However, I think we can still do some comparisons that will illustrate why LEDs are by far the energy efficient choice.

In the following scenario, our fictitious family will decorate with six strings of Christmas lights (3 for their tree and 3 for their house) that they will run for 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 21 days. Electric companies charge by the kilowatt-hour (kWh) so that is what we will use for our comparisons. Keep in mind that the average U.S. household uses about 10,766 kWh of electricity per year, which rounded off is 897 kWh per month.

Christmas Light String of 25 Multi-Colored C9 Incandescent Bulbs175-Watt String of 25 Multi-Colored C9 Incandescent Lights

175 watts per string x 6 strings = 1,050 watts x 5 hours/day x 7 days/week x 21 days = 771,750 watts/1,000 = 771.8 kWh of electricity consumed over a 3 week period.

Christmas Light String of 50 Multi-Colored Mini Incandescent Bulbs24-Watt String of 50 Multi-Colored Mini Incandescent Lights

24 watts per string x 6 = 144 watts x 5 hours/day x 7 days/week x 21 days = 105,840/1,000 = 105.8 kWh of electricity consumed over a 3 week period.

Christmas Light String of 50 Multi-Colored Faceted C3 LED Bulbs4.2-Watt String of 50 Multi-Colored C3 LED Lights

4.2 watts per string x 6 = 25.2 watts x 5 hours/day x 7 days/week x 21 days = 18,522/1,000 = 18.5 kWh of electricity consumed over a 3 week period.

Now, let us put this in perspective.

If you were to decorate with the C9 incandescent Christmas lights and run them for three weeks, your household would consume a whopping 86% of the total electricity an average family uses in one month for just lighting up your home and Christmas tree. The mini incandescent lights would consume 11.8% and the LED lights 2%.

Using the same scenario, if just 10 million families swapped their old C9 incandescent lights for LEDs, the energy savings could power 618,614 homes for an entire year.

Are you ready to make the switch to LED Christmas lights? If you are, below are a few shopping tips.

Shopping for LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas lights use a completely different lighting technology so do not expect them to look exactly like your old incandescent lights. LED Christmas lights are made in a dizzying array of shapes, colors, sizes, styles, and with or without effects so a little pre-planning will make shopping easier and you are more likely to purchase lights that you can and will enjoy for years to come.

  • Doing some online research and reading reviews will help you get an idea of what is available and how various LED Christmas light strings have performed for the people who already bought them.
  • Shop at a store with LED Christmas light displays. That way, you can see what they look like on and in action before you buy them.
  • Many stores will recycle your old Christmas lights so make the effort to remember to bring your old lights with you when you go to the store.
  • Be selective because these lights are going to be lighting up your home and Christmas trees for many years, even decades, so think twice about the shape, style, and effects. Multi-functional light strings may seem cool in the store but turn into a hassle when you get home and cannot figure out how to get them to stay on the effect you like or you have to cycle through eight choices every time you turn them on.
  • Generally, you get what you pay for so do not grab the cheapest lights you can find.

This year give yourself and the planet the gift of energy savings by recycling your incandescent Christmas lights and decorating with LED lights.

Merry Christmas!

Featured Image at Top: Out of Focus Colored Christmas Lights on a Blue Background – Photo Credit iStock/aaron007

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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