Efficient holiday lighting

Efficient holiday lights can save more money for presents.

It’s a shame that holiday lighting can lead to higher energy bills, but the good news is that there are strategies to let you save money without dampening your holiday spirit.

One of the best ways to save energy is by using LED lights, which consume about 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. An individual’s potential savings depends on several factors, including your electric rate and how many hours your holiday lights are turned on.

We’ve seen a number of different estimated energy cost savings. One report said that replacing five strings of traditional incandescent outdoor lights with LED bulbs could lower your bill from about $14 to 22 cents. Another report said that replacing incandescent lights on a typical indoor tree with LED bulbs could lower your monthly cost from $15 to $2.

The reason incandescent bulbs are so inefficient is that at least 90 percent of their energy is converted into heat, not light. LEDs, by contrast, convert virtually all their energy to light. That means up to 20 strings of LED lights can be linked together, whereas incandescent sets are typically limited to between three and five strings in a chain. The efficiency of LED lights also makes them safer because they generate so much less heat.

Aside from their energy efficiency, LED lights can last longer — around 200,000 hours or more, which is about 25 times longer than incandescent lights. The bulb is more durable because it is made of an epoxy instead of glass.

The drawback of switching over to LED lights is the upfront cost. Incandescent bulbs can be purchased for 19 to 50 cents each, while a replacement LED will likely cost $1 or more. However, one report we ran across showed the estimated cost of buying and operating standard C-9 lights for 10 seasons is $122 for incandescent bulbs and $18 for LEDs. Plus, the LED lighting is more likely to last the full 10 seasons, meaning fewer trips to the store.

There are other ways to cut energy expenses. You can use decorative solar light sets, which store energy during the day and release light during the night. Timers are also a good idea because they can reduce energy use, especially if you don’t always remember to turn the lights off before bedtime.

Innovative decorating ideas can make your display more dynamic and interesting, which might help you get by with fewer lights. That could reduce energy costs and still keep your holidays bright. For maximum effect with the smallest amount of energy use, try distributing the lighting across a broader space. In the spaces between lights, add reflective ornaments and decorations to increase the effect of the lights and add interest.

For more information on saving energy on holiday lighting, visit Pat Keegan’s website.