Energy Efficient LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas lights are festive and good for the planet.

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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Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations

Eco-friendly Christmas decorators choose carefully.

Is decorating for Christmas a highlight of the season for you? It is for me. I think holiday decorating can be environmentally friendly and fun.

If you read last week’s post, Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism, you might be surprised by this one. One week I am urging readers to consider opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts and the next week I am promoting Christmas decorations. What is up with that?

I Would Rather Decorate than Exchange Christmas Gifts

From a purely environmental perspective, buying Christmas decorations and displaying them year after year is substantially less harmful to the planet than buying and exchanging gifts every year. In addition, exchanging Christmas gifts can be a stressful, exasperating, and expensive activity so opting out might be the best gift you can give yourself and everyone else on your list.

Decorating for Christmas is an activity that you can enjoy doing on your own or with other people. Be kind to the planet by shopping for decorations thoughtfully and buying minimally.

To some people it may seem like environmentalists are always trying to ruin everyone else’s fun by getting things stopped, banned, and prohibited. Others may think that environmentalists want everyone to deprive themselves of the things they find beautiful, delicious, or fun just to save some polar bears in a far distant icy land. Well, polar bears are cool and deserving of our consideration but so is every other living being, including people.

Everyone needs and deserves beauty and joy in their lives, even environmentalists. For some people, like me, decorating for Christmas fulfills that need in some small way.

December is a dark and cold month. In our small town, we do not have streetlights except on the main streets so when it gets dark just after 5:00 p.m. it is indeed dark. At this time of year, it seems like my hands are almost always cold so I often wear fingerless gloves inside. Getting out of bed on cold winter mornings is an act of fortitude. I am already yearning for spring, longer days, and wildflowers.

One way I cheer myself up and renew my spirit is by bringing some color and sparkle into our home in the form of Christmas decorations and a tree (which is the topic of another post). I think taking care of your own well-being is a gift to the people you love.

When January rolls around, I am refreshed and ready to begin a new year.

Below is my take on eco-friendly Christmas decorations. Please feel free to share your own ideas with other readers in the comments section.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorating Suggestions

Every time you reuse a Christmas decoration its carbon footprint becomes a little smaller because unlike manufacturing a new decoration, it requires no additional resources or energy and does not create waste. You can find these eco-friendly Christmas decorations in your own garage, antique stores, second-hand shops, and family attics.

Ceramic Santa Claus, Snowman, and Christmas Tree Figurines
Ceramic Santa Claus, Snowman, and Christmas Tree Figurines – Photo Credit iStock/PK6289

Making your own decorations is an environmentally sound and creative endeavor. Give yourself extra eco-credit if you make the decorations using things you already have on hand, recycled components, or foraged natural materials.

There are other ways that you can make your Christmas decorating more eco-friendly even if it involves buying new items that are made mostly with non-renewable materials such as plastic, metal, glass, ceramic, and synthetic fabric.

Minimize First

Unless you are in your first year of buying your own Christmas decorations, you probably already have a collection stashed in your garage or a closet. This month, evaluate what you already own, set aside the items you really, really love, and give away or sell everything else.

Over the past couple of holiday seasons, we have been paring down our Christmas decorations. Divesting ourselves of items that family members and friends have given us has been an agonizing and emotional process. At first, I felt guilty for considering getting rid of things that someone had given me; it was as if I was rejecting that person, which of course is not the case. In the end, I decided that things are just things and that it is okay for me to make decisions about my own belongings.

After you reduce your decoration collection, some vigilance is probably required or you might end up back where you started.

Be Prepared

To me, one of the most dangerous activities this time of year is to go shopping in a store or online unprepared. With so much stuff to buy everywhere, you can easily find yourself putting things in your real or virtual shopping cart that you did not even know you wanted until right then.

Christmas Tree in a Snow Globe
Christmas Tree in a Snow Globe – Photo Credit iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Deciding what you want to buy before you hit the stores or log onto the Internet may help you stay focused on that item, which could save you time and money, too. For instance, if you have decided to buy a snow globe, there is no need to be browsing in the wreath section of the store.

I grant you that it is not easy to walk by all the gaily-colored Christmas decorations calling your name, but you increase your odds of ignoring those voices if you are prepared and know what you want.

Be Choosy

Eco-friendly Christmas decorating involves doing it with as little environmental impact as possible, while still enjoying yourself. The more stuff the more impact.

Nutcracker Toy Soldier Christmas Decoration
Nutcracker Toy Soldier Christmas Decoration – Photo Credit iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Be very choosy about what you buy. Only purchase items that you really, really like and can envision yourself happily un-boxing and displaying for many years to come. Try to buy quality items that will last.

Beware of decoration churning, which is routinely getting rid of items you own so you can buy new decorations. I am not advocating never getting anything new just suggesting being mindful of what you buy.

Even though I am committed to minimizing the amount of stuff I own, including Christmas decorations, I admit it is challenging.

For instance, I just purchased items to add to my Dickens Village, which is a collection of small buildings, trees, and figurines that I arrange in our dining room bay window each December.

Fortunately, I had decided to buy a new building for my village before I left my house and of the more than fifty on display all saying, “pick me” I selected just one, the honey shop.

If I had walked to the checkout counter at that point, I could be all self-righteous about my shopping self-control, but that is not what happened.

Of course, the honey shop had a companion beekeeper figurine that was sold separately so I had to grab that. Then I noticed a set of four furry animal figurines that would look wonderful gracing my village’s forest so I picked up a box. My self-restraint finally kicked in and I put down the battery-powered streetlights I had been eying.

Why would I share this story of my own not so successful attempt at eco-friendly Christmas decorating? To point out that we are all human. Sometimes we make environmentally sound choices and sometimes we do not.

This holiday season, I hope you will consider minimizing your decorations, preparing before you go shopping, and choosing new decorations carefully.

Merry Christmas!

December 2019 Update: This year I happily decorated with the items I already own. Whew.

Featured Image at Top: Christmas Gnomes Wearing Knitted Sweaters and Hats – Photo Credit iStock/amerto4ka

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