Ask Pablo: Is It Finally Time To Get LED Holiday Lights?


Image Source: Mike Deal
Dear Pablo: I am still holding out on getting new LED holiday lights because I feel bad about getting rid of the ones that I already have. Are the energy savings worth it?

Many of us have a tangled mess of holiday lights in a box in the attic. Every year we bring it out, untangle them, spend hours searching for the one burned out bulb, and hang them on our houses. In addition to all of this effort, the lights use a lot of electricity. You would be surprised by how little of the electricity actually gets turned into light.Traditional strings of 100 clear incandescent bulbs use around 43 Watts and are 6% efficient. Over a six week period around the holidays, with 6 hours per day, this one string will use 10.8 kilowatt-hours (of course no one has only one string so your electricity use is likely to be even higher). The remaining 94% is turned into heat. Since the climate is warming enough already and our homes tend to require heating around the holidays it makes a lot of sense to keep the old lights, but to use them only indoors.

The benefit of the LED lights is that they last 200,000 hours, do not contain glass, do not burn out, and use much less electricity (between 2 and 4 Watts). This also means that they put out much less heat and do not pose as much of a fire hazard. A 100-light string would use only 1.1 kWh over the holiday season.

How Are The Economics Of LED Holiday Lights?
LED light strings continue to come down in price and are now much more common than they were a few years ago. You can sometimes find them at comparable prices to incandescent lights, which fewer and fewer stores are even carrying. Assuming that you get a good deal on a string of bulbs to replace your incandescent ones, the payback period is not that great. Electricity is pretty cheap, so even a 90% reduction in electricity use will only save you around $1.00 per season, or a ten year payback period. But if you are in the market for brand new lights and need to choose between incandescent and LED, the LED lights are the clear winner.

How Else Can I Minimize My Holiday Lighting Footprint?
Putting your lights on a timer will ensure that your holiday lights are not left on all night (or day). A digital timer can be used for incandescent bulbs but will generally cause LED lights to flicker. Use an analog timer for LED lights instead.

Pablo Päster is a weekly columnist for and Principal Environmental Consultant at Hara Software. Send your questions to Pablo(at) or submit the via this form and connect to his RSS feed.
More TreeHugger Articles On LEDs:
7 Gorgeous Green Ways to Decorate for the Holidays--Without Blowing the Budget
Seen in New York: LED Holiday Lights in Midtown
TreeHugger Forums: switching to LED Holiday lights

Ask Pablo: Is It Finally Time To Get LED Holiday Lights?
Many of us have a tangled mess of holiday lights in a