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10 Reasons to Switch to LED Christmas Lights

Why This May Be the Year Your Christmas Light Displays Go Green


Are LED Christmas lights a brilliant idea?

For many, outdoor decorations and lighting are as much a part of the winter holidays as gift-giving and overeating. But how do the increasingly popular LED (light emitting diode) strands compare to incandescents -- what most people have used for decades? Are they really going to become the standard in holiday lighting?

For the past few years, public outdoor light displays have been setting good examples by going LED for the holidays. Maybe you should too. Learn 10 good reasons why switching to LEDs makes sense this holiday season.

1. LED Lights Are Energy Efficient

led christmas lighting
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

What's that leading Santa's sled?
It's Rudolph's nose, glowing red with LED!

If Santa has gone eco and green, maybe it's time for you to follow suit. One smart reason: LED lights are energy efficient. They can save 90% or more in utility costs compared to incandescent holiday lights.

LEDs are small light sources that are illuminated by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs -- enough to light two 24-foot (7.3-meter) strings.

2. LED Lights are Environmentally Friendly

led lights, xmas
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
The environmental benefits of using LED holiday lights are numerous. Among them:
  • By using less electricity, LEDs will help lower carbon emissions
  • Unlike florescent lamps and compact florescent lights (CFLs), LEDs do not contain mercury
  • LEDs help combat light pollution by emitting light patterns toward the illumination target, not into the sky
  • LEDs are recyclable
  • They don't contain ultraviolet light, which can harm living organisms

3. LED Lights are Safer and Cooler

led lighting
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Because they generate less heat, LED light bulbs are cool-to-the-touch. That means fingers are less likely to get burned. There's also less risk of your house catching on fire due to an overheated incandescent light string. LED lights are also less likely to overload a circuit. LED holiday lights labeled for outdoor use have been subjected to weathering tests.

Electrical Safety Checklist

4. LED Lights Will Save You Money

recyclable bag from sdg&e
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
You've seen LEDs at the hardware store, and they aren't the cheapest lights on the shelves.

Look again. I bought a box of 35 white LED dome-shaped holiday lights at Big Lots! in November 2009. The cost: $4.44. The UL code was on the box, along with the Energy Star logo. The quality is excellent: bright and cool. Not surprisingly, I've continued to add more LED light strands to our collection each year. The prices keep going down and the quality and variety continues to improve.

Retailers, utility companies, and government and municipal LED holiday light exchange programs are making it easier for consumers to switch. Consult the website of your local utility, city or county for holiday light exchange or reduced-fee programs. I also participated in my utility company's LED swap program, exchanging three incandescent strands for three LED holiday strands.

You'll start saving money on your energy bill immediately.

5. LED Lights are More Durable

stepping on durable led holiday lights
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Unlike incandescent light bulbs, LEDs don't have a filament that might break or burn out. What do LEDs have? Epoxy lenses that are almost indestructible, which means you can drop them, step on them and subject them to all those mishaps and torture, and they'll keep on shining brightly. LED bulbs can last for more than 100,000 hours. That means you could potentially have your LED holiday light set around for many holiday seasons (See No. 6).

6. LED Lights Last Longer

energy star logo on box of led holiday lights
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
LED holiday light strings that have earned the U.S. Energy Star rating can last 25 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting. They are also independently tested to meet strict lifetime and electrical requirements. Many manufacturers offer five-year warranties.

LED Christmas lights have an operational life span of about 20,000 hours. That's enough to last for 40 holiday seasons.

For any type of outdoor holiday lighting, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on each circuit. These usually cost less than $10.

7. No More 'Burn-Out' Syndrome

led lights last long
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Even if you've tested your incandescent light strand before climbing under the eaves of your roof, the lights can still burn out. You know -- that phenomenon where one light fails and the whole strand joins it, like a "man overboard" results in everyone jumping ship. While it's been the humorous subplot in Christmas movies (think Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), that may soon make similarly themed films outdated.

LED holiday light strands have tiny built-in fuses. Since they use less power, it's safer to connect multiple strings of LED light sets end-to-end without overloading the wall socket. Don't mix incandescent and LED strands together. Incandescents draw so much more power than LEDs, it's possible that the incandescents could blow a fuse. If you have just one strand of LEDs, display them separately -- not in the middle of a long string of incandescents. And use a separate wall socket for the LEDs and incandescents.

Here's the quick and easy way to hang Christmas lights with plastic light clips.

8. LED Lights Have Vibrant Colors and a Variety of Shapes and Styles

led icicle holiday lights
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
You may have heard that LED colors aren't as brilliant as those of incandescent lights. Not so -- they shine brightly and vividly in an array of colors and can be made without the costly use of extra filters. Most LED lights produce truer, brighter colors than filtered bulbs.

LED holiday lights also come in your favorite sizes, from mini lights to the larger C7s and C9s. And, like the incandescents, LED holiday light strands are equipped with special effects like blinking, dimming and color shifting. Same old tricks, new technology. Remember: sometimes change is a good thing.

9. LED Lights Take Up Less Storage Space

led lights space savers
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
I was surprised by the size of the boxes the LED light strings come in. Since they're made of plastic and aren't breakable -- like their incandescent forefathers -- they don't require the extra cardboard, special slots and packing material that the old ones do. You know how it's almost impossible to get a string of holiday lights back into its original box after it's been out and displayed? Not so with LEDs. These wind up neatly, quickly, easily and back into their original boxes without any fuss. They also weigh less than the older variety: no more heavy boxes of holiday lights with which to contend.

10. By Using LED Lights, You're Setting a Good Example

led lights green eco
Photo © Diogen Lighting
You -- the one who used to let the sprinkler run into the gutter and once left on the air conditioner when you went away for the weekend. Yes, you can be the model of sustainability by using LED holiday lighting. You may not have the biggest holiday light display on the block, but you can have the most eco-friendly.

Encourage others to try them out, and if you find a good deal at a local store, share the information. LED holiday lights don't mean the end to all that memory-making bedazzlement. Doesn't conspicuous consumption -- both overspending and using too much electricity -- seem inconsiderate and out of touch? You can continue to celebrate the holidays and all your traditions, but in an eco-conscious way.

Now that's a bright idea.

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