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Get the LEDs Out

Brightening your holidays for less

November-December 2023

by Tom Tate, Contributing Writer

As you read this, the clock is rapidly ticking down to the holidays. I know many people are already 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 express your holiday cheer 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 Christmas lighting option … those big incandescent lights. They were glorious, and I fondly remember them on the tree and outlining various parts of the house. Wow, were they beautiful!

However, times changed, and the desire to conserve energy drove lighting companies to develop mini-incandescent light strings. They made up for what they lacked in size with numbers. Instead of 10 to 25 bulbs per string, you had at least 50 and often 100. Some included special bulbs that made the string twinkle for a dazzling and festive effect. And the good news? Mini-incandescents provided a serious reduction in electric consumption.

While mini-incandescent lamps used significantly less energy than their larger ancestors, people wanted to save even more on their holiday lighting extravaganzas. Fortunately, lighting technology advances in the form of LEDs (light-emitting diode) lamps provided the perfect solution. Talk about energy misers; LEDs practically sip electricity, even compared to their mini-incandescent cousins. True, the first generations had horrible and garish colors, but that has been resolved, and LEDs are now a beautiful option.

In addition to being certified energy misers, what else do LEDs bring to the holiday lighting scene? For one, you can buy light strands that operate even with one or more inoperable LEDs, a feature hard to find with mini incandescents. Here’s another advantage: They emit little to no heat and perform best in colder temperatures, making them the safest interior lighting option and well-suited for outdoor use (make sure your strands have an outdoor rating). The latest LED light strands offer twinkle, sequential, flashing and other modes to add a special oomph to your display! And finally, LEDs can last as much as 40 times longer than incandescent lamps.

Drum roll, please. How much does using each type of light for your decorating masterpieces cost? The following table provides the answer.

Imagine how many strings of LEDs you can afford to operate when 100 lamps cost a measly 36 cents over 40 days. You could put up enough lights to be visible from low Earth orbit with little impact on your wallet.


Okay, you’ve cut the cost of Christmas lighting to the bone. Carry the savings momentum forward with the easiest New Year’s resolution ever: Dramatically reduce your regular lighting costs by switching to LEDs. While an expensive option a decade ago, LEDs are now affordable, plus you can buy dimmable and three-way bulbs. And like their holiday lighting relatives, they are very energy efficient.

There’s no reason you should put off joining the LED revolution any longer. Enjoy incandescent light quality, exceptional longevity and crazy energy savings.