It’s time for that annual ritual – decorating the yard for the holidays. Some will pretend it’s not a competition – that it’s just showing a little holiday spirit. But clearly, some of your neighbors are out to “win” the annual light show spectacular. The question is – at what cost? Literally.
What will be your plan this year? What will set you apart from the rest? You’ve dusted off the same old holiday light sets for years. Most of them were handed down from your parents when they retired from the show. Maybe this year, it’s time to buy lights made in the 21st century.
Thankfully, there are only a few light types to pick from. You remember the big, ceramic bulbs — “C7” by official name — the kind dad used on the old house. These bulbs are big and bright, but each bulb draws 7 watts of electricity. So a 25-light string draws more power (175 watts) than four 40-watt incandescent bulbs, like the ones you’ll likely find in your ceiling fan right now. And that colored paint, if it hasn’t already, will soon peel away if the bulbs don’t break into a million pieces first when they hit the ground.
If you’ve moved on from that era, you probably decorate with dozens of sets of miniature lights. These mini incandescents are the most popular holiday lights in use today. With good reason, they use less power than their C7 ancestors (40 watts for a 100-light string vs. 175 watts for a 25-light C7 string) and they come in a variety of light counts and colors. However, those little bulbs get hot. And they aren’t high on the durability scale — a broken filament in one little bulb can make the whole string go dark.
This year, if you’re heading out to the big box store in search of enlightenment for your holiday display, check out the LED sets. LEDs are the latest, greatest lighting technology. They are long-lasting (up to 10 times the life span of incandescent bulbs, according to Energy Star) and the most energy-efficient model around (use 90% less energy; 4.2 watts for a 70-light LED string). Unlike their predecessors, they are more durable (no ceramic bulbs or filaments), and they’re cooler to the touch – making them safer and easier to use.
LEDs also come in all shapes and sizes. Even better, their low energy use will allow you to connect dozens of strings to one outlet without overloading it. However, like any new technology, you’ll find the sticker price is a little higher than that of a mini light set. But remember, the energy you save over a few years of holiday light shows will easily offset your upfront investment, and continue to pay dividends for years to come.
The choice is yours. Be the innovator this year. Go with LEDs and save. Even better, use timers for your lights, allowing them to come on when it turns dark and shut off after your neighbors have become nestled all snug in their beds.
This year, you may not win the annual light show battle, but you’ll likely win the war when you see your energy bill come January. Happy holiday decorating!