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Take Down the Lights!

written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 6/27/2011

At most homes, holiday decorations include strings of lights. The lights are wrapped around trees, placed around doorways, and sometimes used to illuminate an entire home so it’s visible from blocks away.

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    At most homes, holiday decorations include strings of lights. The lights are wrapped around trees, placed around doorways, and sometimes used to illuminate an entire home so it’s visible from blocks away. The problem is that these lights use electricity and a lot of it in most cases. And since people tend to keep using their holiday lights beyond Christmas and even adding lights starting as early as Halloween this is causing preventable problems.

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    Wasted Energy Consumption

    Just over $7 is what a single strand of incandescent holiday lights will cost you if you run them just five hours a day for only 30 days. While a strand of holiday lights may not do much to your electric bill during the course of a single month, when we multiply that small extra usage by all of the people in your city, your state, in the United States, and in North America you can imagine how much the energy demand goes up at this time of year.

    Of course, it’s not just the cost that’s a concern. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the holiday lights used in 2007 in just the United States will generate as much global warming as the equivalent of 250,000 cars.

    Part of the problem is that incandescent lights are one of the most inefficient lighting choices available. About 90% of all the electricity they use is wasted which means you’re doing more harm to the environment and to your electric bill than what is really necessary.

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    Better Options

    Although incandescent strands are a bad idea, that doesn’t mean you need to give up the idea of holiday decorating altogether. Thankfully, a number of new products have been released in recent years which can help you decorate while saving money and energy. One option is LED lights. LED stands for light emitting diodes which are small sources of light illuminated by the movement of electrons.

    When compared to incandescent lights, LED strands are a much more efficient option. They use only about one-tenth of the energy required for incandescent and that also means you’ll pay less on your energy bill. Depending on the types of LED lights you use, the cost for running a strand five hours a day each day for 30 days would be between 12 and 23 cents compared to $7 for incandescent. Because of their improved efficiency, LED lights have earned the government’s Energy Star rating.

    If you want to reduce your holiday dependence on electricity even further, consider switching to solar-powered holiday lights. The light strands come up with a solar collection which can be placed in a location normally hit by plenty of sunlight. The collector then uses that solar energy to turn all of the holiday lights on as soon as dusk falls. While prices are a bit steep at $80 as a minimum, your energy bill won’t increase at all nor will you be contributing to global warming. It’s the ultimate way to celebrate a “green" holiday.