LED Christmas lights have been popping up everywhere and they're being pushed as the future. Sure, they might use a fraction of the energy of conventional lights, run cooler, last longer, and shine brighter, but are they worth the huge price increase? Find out what your extra holiday dollars buys you!
LED lights use less energy than traditional incandescent lights. A typical C7 incandescent bulb in a strand of holiday lighting uses 6 watts, while an LED bulb uses only .8 watts. What does less wattage equate to in actual dollars? About.com puts it very nicely, explaining that with 10 strands of lights you'd save almost $40 over a month.
A typical strand of 50 lights utilizes 300 watts (.3 kilowatts). At the national average of 9.81 cents per kWh, that equals 3 cents per hour, per strand. Running these lights 5 hours a day for the entire season of 30 days, the total cost for one strand of holiday lights equals $4.50. Multiply this by however many strands of lights you are using and you can see that lighting costs add up.
On the other hand, a strand of 50 LED lights uses 4 watts (.004 kilowatts). Using the same formula as above, the total cost to run a strand of LED holiday bulbs for the season would be less than 6 cents. So running 10 strands of these lights would cost less than $6.00 for the holiday season.
But does this actually save you money considering the extra cost of the LED lights? While it's difficult to directly compare lighting strand to strand, a quick browse of Home Depot's incandescent Christmas light offerings shows a typical 50 light strand costs a couple of dollars for budget options. LED lighting options run several times the cost of a traditional set.
If you consider the long term investment of LED lights, the energy savings will make up for the purchase price. But also consider each year you pull out your old strand of lights and how many are broken, not working, or lost and you'll need to question whether you'll properly store and take care of your new fancy lights. LED lights are supposed to last quite a bit longer though, with a projected lifespan of 50,000 hours compared to 1,200 for an incandescent bulb.
An additional side effect of using less energy is that LED lights traditionally run cooler, which loosely translates to safer. Property damage and death are real tragedies.
Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.
So are LED Christmas lights worth the extra cost? We say so, especially if you put up a lot of lights each year and are careful to store and re-use your lights each year. With the safety considerations and energy savings over not a very long run, they're actually quite affordable and a good idea for the holidays.