The holidays just aren’t the holidays until you’ve spent hours trying to figure out why the mile long string of holiday lights is only half lit up…after you’ve placed it perfectly on the tree. Or you’ve faced your paralyzing fear of heights and climbed the tallest ladder in the world to hang holiday lights on your gutters.
Despite the challenges of putting up holiday lights I wouldn’t have the holidays without them! However, there is one thing I’d like to change about holiday lights…and that is to make them greener. No, I don’t mean the color green….I mean, make them more environmentally friendly.
LED vs. Incandescent
Since we’ve switched to LED bulbs for our everyday lighting, I figured why not switch to LED holiday lights too. I had no idea how much energy incandescent holiday lights used versus LED so a quick search turned up some super useful information at Christmas Lights Etc.
Our house falls into their typical light usage category (defined as: children’s eyes light up when they pass your house!) so our approximate watts used and cost for a season* is:
*Visit Christmas Lights Etc. for detailed formula and other usage categories
Okay, so not a huge savings for a single family but the decrease in the amount of energy if lots and lots of families switched to LED could be significant! It’s all about us each making small changes that add up to a big impact!
What Kind of Lights Do I Have?
If you are like me, you have every intention of packing up the holiday decorations in an organized manner with all the parts and pieces labeled to make the unpacking process easier the following year. However, when it comes time to finally “take down all of this junk and get it out of my sight” organization is the last thing on your mind and you end up with random light strings packed in multiple boxes. Next year you won’t remember which strings work – because of course you hang on to the strings that don’t work for some reason – and you don’t know what type of strings you have.
This year, take a minute and first separate out any strings that don’t work (we’ll get to what to do with those in a minute!) from those that do. Once you have your working strings you’ll want to know if they are incandescent or LED. Plug the lights in for at least 10 minutes then touch the top of a bulb (don’t worry you won’t get burned!). If it’s barely warm or cool it’s LED, if it’s hot it’s incandescent. Now if you decide to go totally LED you know which strings to get rid of or if you need to replace a bulb, you know which type to buy.
If you have lots of strings of working incandescent lights and don’t want to trash perfectly good lights just to make the switch to LED, I totally get it. I have a really hard time getting rid of something that works just fine, as long as I’m actually using it!
Despite the fact that incandescent lights use more energy than LED’s you can make them both a little greener by using them energy efficiently. Make sure the lights are only on when it makes sense to have them on. That usually means plugging them in right at dusk but do you really need them on all night? Will there really be anyone out and about to enjoy them? Plus who can sleep with bright holiday lights streaming in their window all night long? 🙂
An easy solution is to plug your lights into a simple timer (we have an outdoor timer like this one which works great). Set it to turn the lights on and off so you only use energy when it makes sense to have them on. Using a timer also keeps the lights from accidentally being left on all night because you got wrapped up in the latest episode of the Walking Dead and then fell asleep on the couch! 🙂
Out With the Old
If you have old lights to get rid consider donating them so they can be reused. If they aren’t working keep them out of the landfill by recycling them!
HolidayLEDS offers a program where holiday lights can avoid the landfill and be shipped in or dropped off to be recycled. How you ask? The lights are taken to a 3rd party recycling facility where they are put through a commercial shredder and chopped into little pieces. Those little pieces are further processed, sorted and shipped out.
As a bonus you’ll receive a 15% off coupon to use on their site…where they sell LED holiday lights! What could be easier? Put aside an empty box from Christmas, pack up your old lights in it while un-decorating and ship them out! I’m in!