Holiday Sparkle That Saves Energy: Deck the halls with efficient lighting technologies
Decking the halls with twinkling lights is a favorite holiday pastime, but one that can also pack a post-season shock when your electric bill arrives. This year, avoid the high cost of yuletide cheer by starting a tradition of energy-efficient decorating with LED and fiber-optic lighting products. Their variety and versatility are better than ever before, and these dazzling decorations help to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, provide longer-lasting light, and slash energy bills as they add sparkle to your home.
Lighting with LEDs
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. Whats more, if one light in an LED string goes out, it wont dim the rest of a holiday display.
LED holiday trimmings are generally comparable in price to incandescents, and now abound at home improvement centers, hardware stores and such dedicated retailers as www.EnvironmentalLights.com. You can find indoor and outdoor light strings in a variety of bulb colors and shapes, as well as trees, wreaths, rope lighting, PAR spot bulbs for landscaping, animated lawn ornaments, and even systems to give that seasonal glow to your boat, camper or truck. Just look for LED on the label as you shop, and be sure to go all-LED in cases where multiple light strings are required.
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 trees 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 when youre decorating with LEDs and fiber optics. 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, as around-the-clock shows will quadruple energy costs as well as pollution. Also be sure to shut down and unplug holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. And above all, avoid the Tao of Clark Griswold by reading labels to ensure youre not exceeding maximum string connections, 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, youre still expending energy and money with that extreme light show!
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs website.