Friday, October 19, 2007

Save the earth with... Light Emitting Diodes?

LED Christmas lights may seem like a trivial step to fight global warming, peak oil and soaring energy prices, but my sources indicate that it could be one small step toward all those things.

A 2003 report conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that the U.S. consumes about 2,220,000 KWh of electricity each year to illuminate miniature holiday lights. (*2,220,000 KWh is enough electricity to run approximately 200 homes for an entire year.) Based on these figures, the EPA report concluded that a 20% market shift to LED holiday or Christmas lights would reduce annual electricity consumption in the U.S. by 400,000KWh.

LED Christmas lights also last for more than 50,000 hours compared to about 2000 for incandescent lights. The lights are also safer because they operate at only 1 degree above ambient temperature unlike incandescent which can get very hot.

What does that mean in practical terms?

Progressive Georgia City Makes the Switch to LED Christmas Lights

October 7, 2007

The city of Monroe, Georgia has become the first city in the state of Georgia to switch to energy-efficient LED holiday lights. In a recent article in the Walton Tribune, city officials announced that the switch will lower their utility bill from $1600 to about $150.

Of course, it might take several years to pay off - but with a life expectancy of 50,000 hours of zero maintenance operation, it won't take that many hours to pay them off.

Indeed, according to, writing in an article featuring the maker of these particular LED Christmas Lights:

During the 45-day period during which the capital tree is illuminated it will consume approximately 37,800 kilowatt hours of electricity and cost the state over $3,000. After the holiday season is over the state will take the tree down and place the tree, along with its 5000 incandescent lights and wiring in a commercial shredder.

If the State of Michigan replaced its current C9 incandescent lights with energy efficient LED Christmas lights it would consume only 389 kilowatt hours of electricity which would cost only $30.00. This would save the state nearly $3,000.00 each year in electricity costs alone.

Perhaps more importantly, the LED lights could be used for several years so the state would not have to continue its environmentally irresponsible practice of shredding the lights each year. The ability to reuse the lights would also save the state approximately $2200 annually. Based on the state’s current usage, the new LED lights could last for as many as 50 holiday seasons.

The LED lights offered by are currently used on the national holiday tree on the Capital lawn in Washington, D.C. and Rockefeller Center in New York City.

I found myself fascinated with the whole topic, because this is a rapidly evolving technology and is already starting to appear in home applications. I'm excited by that for a reason that might seem odd to many, because of my Asperger's Autism.

You see, the current available technology available at my price-point is the compact fluorescent bulb. But there are large problems with compact fluorescents from my standpoint - first, they do flicker. Not as badly as the tubes of yore, but they do have a perceptible flicker. To ME, anyway. I find this bothersome, and the light quality muddy, so I don't use them in areas where the light quality is important to me.

Second, they contain mercury, and I really do not think we need to be using another technology dependent upon that particular neurotoxin. While scientists are still arguing about it's effects on people, and whether or not it can be directly attributed to the explosion in autistic births, there is no responsible science touting it as a nerve tonic, either, much less a large-scale food additive.

And yet, it is, unfortunately, a nearly unavoidable food additive. So I'd like to skip right by compact fluorescent lighting and go straight to LED lighting. They use even less power, produce a crisp, clean light and do not create much impact upon the household heat load. And for those of us for whom this is important, they do not pollute the electromagnetic spectrum with nasty buzzy noises we should not be physically able to perceive.

So, why don't we all get our feet wet with a few strings of LED Christmas lights and save some money?

For you holiday display competitors, such as those mad folks up in the Reno Hills, they offer commercial grade strings and all the stuff you need to get extremely creative in many colors - with the ability to connect up to 125 strings in one circuit. Some of you could save thousands a year while executing designs you never thought possible before. For instance, you could create displays from Coroplast sheeting - that cardboard-like plastic that many signs are made from these days.

But there are endless applications for such affordable and flexible lighting. You could actually make your own chandelier from materials from this site and some Coroplast, Styrene, or Acrylic plastic with tools you have or could get from any hobby supply store.

Running at one degree over ambient temperature, you can use LED lights next to materials you'd never consider using in any incandescent application. I doubt that it would even soften hot glue. You could go all Martha Stewart with this stuff and come up with energy-saving replacements for those swag lights you've been meaning to do without for years now.

Heck, I might just get ambitious myself.

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