Tamara J Gordy

Facilitating sustainable environmental and social impact

Sparkling Brightly & Efficiently


There is a super-easy way for the U.S. to reduce over 700 million KWh of electricity per year and cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 100,000 cars. Will you join me and thousands of friends and neighbors and make it happen?

It’s easy. Inexpensive. Festive.

Get rid of incandescent Christmas lights, and replace them with LEDs. Get friends and family to join you. With this simple step, you can still deck the halls with bright shiny things, save money, use energy wisely, and keep the planet happy. All at the same time.

LED Christmas lights really sparkle. You’ll be happy to learn that LED holiday lights come in more colors, shapes, and sizes than traditional lights. You can get minis, big ones (called C7 and C9 in trade lingo), wide-angles, globes, berries, nets, icicles, snowfalls and ropes. You can get all one color (Oh my, what a great color selection!), multi-color, even bulbs that change colors. If you have lots of incandescent light strings and cannot bear to get rid of them, you can replace burned out bulbs with LEDs, and still reduce power by 20%. There are pre-lit trees, wreaths, and reindeer. It’s like an LED Wonderland.

In addition to those perks, you’ll save money on your electric bill. Wonder how much you’ll save? Dominion Energy created a calculator to break it down based on lighting type and hours per day that the lights stay on. (It is based on their average cost of electricity of $0.10 per KWh. If you live in the Pacific Northwest like me, residential rates are closer to $0.085. That means that costs and savings will both be just a touch less than shown).

For example, if you used five 100-bulb strand icicle lights, five strands of the 25-bulb bigger lights, and four spotlights and you kept them all on from 4:30PM until 11:30PM, the holiday lights alone would cost around $32.01 for the month of December. Switching those thirsty old incandescents for some sweet LEDs would let you brighten up with a whopping 15 strands of the 100-bulb LED lights, at a cost of $1.63!! That’s some amazing payback potential, and only 5 cents per day to have your house (or your park or your City) shine brighter than ever.

In general, LEDs are less breakable, brighter, and don’t burn out. That said, quality counts. Some of the lower quality (cheaper) LEDs are reported to fail. Stick with ENERGY STAR rated lights. They have a 3-year warranty and guaranteed power savings.

Random light bulb trivia: Electric Christmas lights were first sold in 1890 not long after Edison first invented light bulbs. But they were so expensive that even wealthy people, who saw them as status symbols, had to rent instead of buy. By the 1930’s, cities and towns had seasonal light displays and General Electric sponsored community lighting competitions. And by the 1950’s home displays were fairly commonplace.

Please join me. Let’s switch to LEDs and make this the year of energy-smart Christmas.


Author: tamarajgordy

Facilitating projects with positive environmental and social impacts.

4 thoughts on “Sparkling Brightly & Efficiently

  1. Thanks for doing the break down on the cost; that is great information. I think about this stuff every year I set up Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park. The electric bill adds up fast; though, it's best not to talk about it… They do look niceEvery year, we slowly switch over more displays to LED. But I will say, even though they are cost efficient, they burn my eyes when I look at them too long. There is always a tradeoff…

  2. OK you have persuaded me. With this much savings I can justify the replacement costs.As my traditional lights have broken, I have been changing to LEDs. We were replacing the LED strands more frequently, however I have noticed an improvement in quality. Thanks for this useful and festive information.

  3. Thanks for the info Tamara. I think the energy savings of LED's are great… and I think there is going to be a lot of waste in the world if everyone throws out their holiday lights. How do you balance this need to limit energy consumption while equally limiting waste and unnecessary consumption.

  4. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. You really help make the point about choices and trade-offs. Replace to gain long-term lower operating costs, versus keep what you have and avoid the associated waste and consumption. I vote for replacement, but your own math might differ.And, if you are Erich and you look at hundreds of thousands of bulbs while putting up a big-time community display, your eyes must get really tired. I look at the keep or replace question the same way I look at fixing a leak. For each 7W (C9) bulb I replace with a 0.45W LED, I save almost 25x the energy. Multiplied by hundreds of bulbs, this really starts to add up. I also get superior color and brightness, longer bulb life, no heat, shatterproof bulbs, and, because of lower power, I can safely connect more strings together. For me, the lifecycle analysis math points toward replacing those "leaky" incandescents. Another option is to keep your existing light sets, and simply replace bulbs with LEDs as they break or burn out. See 1000Bulbs.com or christmasdesigners.com for retail replacement bulbs. The larger C7 and C9s are available in all colors, though I did not find replacement bulbs for mini's. Read the labels though – One replacement LED C9 uses 0.96 Watts while another uses only 0.45 Watts.

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