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Light and Darkness, Part II

2012 December 28

By Amy Miller

My affinity for winter’s darkness is inseparable from my love of light, including the cacophony of colored, white, LED, incandescent and just plain discordant bulbs that turn on the landscapes of New England each December.

As I drive through my bejeweled town, though, niggling questions flicker along with the icicles.

Questions like: How much does it cost to light up a house like Fenway Park? How much would a restaurant laced in traditional yellow white bulbs save by switching to the bluish and still much-reviled LEDs? How much do we spend on our decoration if we do a tree full of lights and a single outdoor strand? And most important of all, how long will it take for us to stop seeing the LEDs as cold and ugly?

Millions of lights are purchased each year and millions of dollars spent electrifying our yards. Statistics given by Dow Jones say lighting a six-foot Christmas tree 12 hours a day for 40 days can cost anywhere from $25 for the larger incandescent bulbs to under $1 for LED strands. Lighting your lawn can cost in the hundreds (or more), depending on your taste, budget and bulbs.

A typical house full-out decorated with tons of incandescent lights, motorized characters and lots of lit objects might use, say 2,500 watts, which costs 28 cents an hour. Over 40 days that would cost the homeowner with incandescent lights about $135.

But the equation changes with LED lights. Most incandescent bulbs last about 1,000 hours, while the majority of LEDs burn for 50,000 hours. And each bulb gives up to 10 times more energy. For example, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs — enough to light two 24-foot strings.

Furthermore, LEDS don’t break nearly as easily and many of them come with a three-year warranty. Oh, did I mention that LEDS stay cool, reducing the risk of fire.

So, what I really want to say to all of you – all of us – who resist the hues on the LEDs is: Get Over It!
Yes, I still have the mini incandescent bulbs on my tree. And yes, the strand was cheaper in the short-run so I was pound-foolish. But those .4-watt lights will run me 10 times as much in electric bills.

On paper, there is no comparison. Back in the real world of Main Street, however, change will be slow and creeping. Eventually, though, we will come to see the icy LED lights as just as pretty as the muddy old yellow ones.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    December 28, 2012

    I don’t think most people would view something that has to “creep up on them” as beneficial.

  2. wade permalink
    January 2, 2013

    I just yesterday (as for the past 50 or so years) removed my Christmas lights from the house and yard. I have some 800 “old fashion incandescent” bulbs, some of which have faded over the past 15 or so years they have given me light. I burn them 8 hrs/day, 15 days/yr @ 1.0 watt/bulb which makes a power plant produce 96,000 watt hours of electricity. Fortunate to live in the South where power is less than $0.10 per killowatt hr, this cost me $9.60/yr. Please help me justify replacing with LED’s.

  3. Mike @ permalink
    January 17, 2013

    I like LED ropes very much for outside decoration. They are safe, waterproof and energy saving. I think they are much more handy than typical light bulbs – I wouldn’t use even LED light bulbs for decorations, because it is difficult to avoid problems with high humidity.
    Anyway, I still cannot understand the use of fluorescent lamps – they contain mercury – the most toxic element for living beings. One thing is to talk about saving energy, but the we still have to keep in mind how the lamp would be recycled.

    To Wade: I would say that it is worth to contribute a little to reducing the energy demands. It might not be completly economical, but if everybody does the same good thing, it may result in global changes.


  4. Amy permalink
    January 22, 2013

    To Wade.. according to manufacturers, LED lights use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, so you would save $8.64 a year at current energy prices.

  5. Systech permalink
    February 15, 2013

    Right,Good to see these useful info here..Thanks a lot for sharing them with us….

  6. puns permalink
    March 30, 2013

    Dear Amy, this was another excellent post from you!
    I too encounter this question of yours many times “How much does it cost to light up a house like Fenway Park?”
    It hurts me like a razor wire does…

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