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LEDs: Right for the Holidays and All Year

By Tom Tate

As I write this, the clock is rapidly ticking down to Christmas (http://www.xmasclock.com/). I just know that people are contemplating how to decorate their homes to celebrate. Naturally, you will want to be as economical as possible in your energy use, won’t you? So let me help you through the holidays with a minimal impact on your electric bill.

As a youngster growing up in the second half of the last century, we had but one lighting option…those big incandescent lights. They were glorious and I have fond memories of them on the tree and outlining various parts of the house.

However, as with all things, times changed and the awareness that we needed to be more concerned about energy use drove companies to develop and offer the mini incandescent light strings. What they lacked in sheer presence and effect they made up for in numbers. Instead of 25 bulbs per string, you had at least 50 and often 100! Some included special bulbs that made the string twinkle. All this extra capability came with a serious drop in power use.

The trend for saving energy has been a very persistent and beneficial one. The demand for even more efficiency moved manufacturers on to the LED bulb/lamp for Christmas use. Talk about energy misers! LEDS practically sip electricity, even compared to their mini incandescent cousins. True, the first generations were horrible and garish in terms of colors but that has been resolved and the LEDs are now a beautiful option.

Just how much would it cost to use each type of lamp these days for your decorating masterpieces? The following table provides the answer.

LEDs-table

Imagine how many strings of LEDs you can afford to operate when 50 lamps cost a measly $.13 over 40 days! You could put up enough lights to be visible from low Earth orbit and still have extra cash for gifts. (Check out my other article in this issue for ideas on how to dispose of that money.)

Okay, you’ve cut the cost of Christmas decorating to the bone. Now carry it forward. Using LEDs to save could become your most successful New Year’s Resolution ever. A couple of facts; LEDs have a substantially longer life span than either incandescent or florescent options. In typical situations, they can have a lifespan of 10 – 15 years. They also love cold weather so don’t suffer from an extended start up time like florescent lamps. But they remain stubbornly expensive.

Given these three factors, judicious application in your home is in order. My advice is to outfit hard to access lights (outside, high ceilings, recessed fixtures) along with some high use ones. Let me give you a personal example. My rec room came outfitted with seven recessed fixtures using 75-watt bulbs. To save energy, I purchased 9.5-watt LED replacement lamps. These seven fixtures are now less expensive to run than my single 100-watt halogen desk lamp. According to my calculations, these lamps won’t need to be touched until about 2029.

Replacing half a dozen incandescent or florescent lamps with LEDs can shave money off your bill and reduce maintenance chores, not to mention risks. Carry that holiday energy saving spirit into the New Year and have even more gadget cash in 2016.

November/December 2015