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Keep the holiday jingle in your pocket with energy efficient decorative lighting

Monday, November 28, 2011  
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For many people, the holidays mean decorating fever. Whether you put up one strand of lights or are in competition with your neighbors, stringing hundreds of small, colorful lights is part of the season. But, your festive displays of twinkling lights don’t have to mean higher power bills that put a damper on your holiday cheer.

While the blinking lights and illuminated trees are symbols of the season, sometimes we don’t realize how much energy those bulbs use. The traditional bulb used for holiday lighting is 6 watts. A typical strand of 50 lights utilizes 300 watts (.3 kilowatts). That is approximately 3 cents per hour, per strand. Running these lights just 5 hours a day for 30 days, and the total cost for one strand of holiday lights equals about $4.50. Light up just 10 strands and your cost for electricity jumps to $45. Those with larger displays can see lighting costs add up quickly.

Now, take a look at LEDs, (Light Emitting Diodes) and see how you can save energy as well as money, with your holiday lighting. A strand of 50 LED lights uses 4 watts (.004 kilowatts). Using the same formula as above, the total cost to run a strand of LED holiday bulbs for the season would be less than 6 cents. So, running 10 strands of these lights would cost less than $6.00 for the holiday season.

Remember the 1989 "Christmas Vacation" movie? Clark Griswold, the character who lit his house with 25,000 bulbs, would see his electric bill would drop from about $2,200 to $30 if he switched to energy-efficient C9 LED bulbs.

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 6-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs — enough to light two 24-foot strings.

Here are some good reasons why switching to LEDs makes sense this holiday season:

Energy Efficiency -- LEDs can save up to 98 percent of the electricity needed to power incandescent light strands.

Environmentally Friendly -- LEDs use less electricity which can help lower carbon emissions. Manufacturing LEDs is more environmentally friendly as well.

Safety – LEDs generate much less heat when they operate so they are cool to the touch, and are less likely to overload a circuit and cause a fire.

Durability -- LEDs are encased in hard-to-break plastic versus the more fragile glass of incandescent lights and can last for more than 100,000 hours.

Price – The cost of LEDs is dropping. Many manufacturers offer rebates on qualified LED holiday lights, so look for bargains where you shop.

Here's more energy saving tips to keep the Grinch from your door this holiday season:

--Plug your indoor and outdoor lighting displays into a timer set to run during the earlier evening hours.

--If you don’t use timers, unplug your lights when you retire for the evening or leave home.

--Instead of adding more lights to your tree, enhance it with tinsel, mirrored ornaments or other reflective items.

--Plug holiday lights and other electronic decorations into a power strip to make it convenient to turn them all off before bedtime and boost energy savings.

Above all else, make safety a priority when decorating with holiday lights:

--Make sure all lights you purchase contain the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label, which means they meet UL safety requirements.

--Be sure to use the right type. All lights are labeled for indoor use, outdoor use, or both.

--Check all light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets, or cracked insulation. If you find any defects, replace the entire set.

--Ensure all outdoor cords, plugs and sockets are weatherproof. Keep electrical connections off the ground, and make sure wiring is kept clear of drainpipes and railings to prevent any risk of shock. It's also a good idea to use a ground fault circuit interrupter on each circuit. If current leaks through frayed or damaged wires, the interrupter will shut off the lights.

--Don’t plug together more light sets than the manufacturer allows and only use one extension cord per string.

--Watch that you don't overload your electrical circuits. Circuits in older homes carry a maximum of 1800 watts each. Most newer home circuits can handle 2400 watts each.

Source: Progress Energy

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