Lower your holiday energy bill with energy-efficient lighting

Deck the halls with twinkling cheer using the latest in energy-efficient lighting products and you'll trim down your holiday energy bill. The variety and versatility of LED and fiber-optic options are better than ever before, keeping valuable dollars in your holiday budget as they provide longer-lasting light while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

LED Magic: LED (light-emitting diode) illumination has come a long way since its early, somewhat-dim days, and now tends to shine brighter and longer than traditional options. LEDs convert energy into light rather than heat, with each light in a system using only .04 watts for up to 90 percent efficiency over old-school incandescents. Wondering how this translates to your personal energy savings? According to the Alliance to Save Energy, a household burning 10 strands of holiday lights with 100 lights per strand, eight hours a day for a month, would spend around $175 a month for large incandescents, about $11 a month for traditional mini-lights, and just over $1 for LEDs (based on a local energy cost of $0.1003 per kilowatt-hour).

In other advantages, LED lights contain no mercury or other toxins, and the sturdy epoxy bulbs can last more than 50,000 hours, barely warming up and reducing fire concerns in the process. What's more, if one light in an LED string goes out, it won't dim the rest of a holiday display. Shop your favorite home center or discount store for strings in a range of shapes and colors, rope lighting, spotlights, trees, wreaths and lawn displays.

Fiber-optic options: Fiber-optic trees are also sources of energy-efficient holiday sparkle. In these aah-inspiring tannenbaums, a single, low-wattage incandescent bulb sends light out through tiny fibers integrated with the tree's needles. The result is cool-to-the-touch lighting that can be further enhanced with changing colors and special effects. Garlands, wreaths, and other decorations also lend festive touches without adding to your energy bill.

Adding safety to savings: As with any holiday lighting endeavor, common sense and safety should be part of the scheme. Start by inspecting light strings and decorations carefully for any damage or signs of wear that could literally spark an electrical fire. Use timers to limit light displays to a maximum of six evening hours and be sure to shut down and unplug holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. Above all, avoid the Tao of Clark Griswold by adhering to string connection limits, using lighting and extension cords according to their indoor/outdoor designations, and stifling the temptation to go light-crazy just because LEDs and fiber optics allow more dazzle for the dollar. Remember, you're still expending energy and money with that extreme light show!

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He councils serial renovators on the finer points of home improvement each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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