Energy-Efficient Holiday Lighting

December 17th 2009
Energy-Efficient Holiday Lighting

A little light can go a long way during the holiday season and choosing the most appropriate holiday lights to decorate your house can add up to big energy savings over this season and seasons to come. If you are purchasing new lights consider holiday energy efficient (LED) light emitting diodes, rope lighting or fibre optic cabling. Timers and photocells can also save you energy and money by automatically turning lights on at dusk and turning them off at a scheduled time. Be sure the timer is designed for the required amount of wattage.

Holiday LED Lights (light emitting diodes)

Holiday LED strings are available for sale through many Canadian retailers. These energy-efficient light strings are superior to standard incandescent light strings.

Seasonal LED lights use up to 90 per cent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent holiday lights.

LED lights may initially cost more than conventional light strings, however they will pay for themselves within one season or two (depending on how often they are used) through reduced energy consumption and bulb replacement.

LED lights are more durable, lasting seven to ten times longer.

They are shatterproof and shock resistant.

Due to the fact that they produce very little heat, seasonal LED lights reduce the risk of fire.

LED lights come in a variety of sizes and shapes such as strawberry, raspberry, mini lights and rope lighting.

Choose colours from red, green, gold, blue, clear and multi, and strings of 25, 35, 70 or 100 lights.

The amount of electricity consumed by a single 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LED bulbs - enough to fill two 24-foot strings.

Tip: When purchasing holiday LED lighting, look for ENERGY STAR labelled products. To ensure quality and durability, look for a brand offering a warranty of 3 years or more.

Incandescent mini-lights:

Introduced in the 1970s, incandescent mini-lights use 1/10 the energy of traditional incandescents. With a 100-bulb string using about 40 watts of power, they generate considerably less heat than traditional bulbs.

Traditional Incandescents:

Traditional screw socket bulbs use either 5 or 7 watts per bulb. With 25 lights per string, that translates to a lot of power - between 125 to 175 watts per string. And unfortunately, most of that energy is wasted. Less than 10 per cent of the power used by an incandescent bulb goes into creating light - the rest is lost as heat.

Rope or flexible lighting Rope or flexible Lighting:

Consists of miniature incandescent lights encased in flexible plastic tubing about 1/2 inch in diameter. Spaced about 1 inch apart, the bulbs use approximately 0.5 watts of power  (or 5 watts per foot) and are rated to last over 20,000 hours. Available for indoor or outdoor use, the bulbs and tubing are available in several different colours, and these are well suited for decorations or feature illumination. and drainpipes, to prevent any risk of shock from an electrical current.

Safety Tips for Outdoor Lighting:

  • Use Canadian Standards Association (CSA)-approved lights, cords, plugs and sockets that are marked for outdoor use or wet locations.

  • Avoid using extension cords by installing a separate weatherproof circuit for holiday lighting. Place the circuit under the eaves, with a switch at your door.

  • Make sure outdoor circuits are equipped with an approved, weather-proof ground fault circuit interrupter.

  • Ensure the circuit breakers and fuses on your holiday lights circuit are no larger than 15 amperes.

  • Do not overload circuits. Have no more than 1400 watts on a circuit. If other lights in the house dim when the holiday lighting is turned on or the plug is very hot when unplugged, your circuit is overloaded. To figure out a circuit's load, multiply the number of bulbs by the watts per bulb, and add any lamps, appliances or other equipment on the same circuit.

  • Before you put light strings on a shrub, tree or your house, check for breaks or signs of insulation deterioration. Frayed cords or loose connections indicate that the wiring is poor. Replace any defective sets.

  • Never install lights with the power on. Test lights first, then unplug to install.

  • Keep electrical connections off the ground. Use eave clips or insulated staples, rather than nails and tacks, to hold light strings in place.

  • Keep wiring clear of metal parts such as ornamental railings and drainpipes, to prevent any risk of shock from an electrical current. Do not leave any light sockets empty if you want sections in your light string unlit. This can create a fire hazard or could be fatal if someone touches the inside of the empty socket. Instead place a burned-out bulb in the socket. This will not affect the other lights on the string.

  • Do not leave any light sockets empty if you want sections in your light string unlit. This can create a fire hazard, or could be fatal if someone touches the inside of the empty socket. Instead place a burned-out bulb in the socket. This will not affect the other lights on the string.

  • Be sure to turn off your holiday lights before going to bed, and never leave lights on when you are away from home, unless they are connected to a timer or photocell.

  • Don't leave your outdoor lights up year-round. Cords and bulbs will deteriorate, reducing their safety and shortening their life.

  • Safety Tips for Your Tree

    - Keep your tree at least three feet away from heat vents, baseboards and fireplaces.
    - Secure your tree so pets and children cannot knock it over.
    - Use holiday LED strings inside, reducing the risk of fire.
    - Replace broken bulbs and light sets that have cracked or corroded sockets, frayed plugs, are wires or loose connections.
    - Keep your tree fresh by sawing off an inch or two from the trunk base at an angle.
    - Immediately place the tree in a waterfilled, no-tip stand and regularly check to make sure the tree stand always has plenty of water.
    - Keep cords and light sets away from the water.
    - Keep a fire extinguisher handy and your smoke detectors in good working order.

  • Recycling Holiday Lights

    Q. What can I do with my old holiday lights now that I have switched to LEDs?

  • A. Recycling for old holiday lights (and other holiday decorations) is increasing. To find out what you can recycle in your area, contact the BC Recycling Council at 1 800 667 4321 or 604 RECYCLE (604 732 9253) in the Lower Mainland.

  • Q. Are LEDs a passing fad and will I need to get new lights again in a couple of years?

  • A. Due to the long lifecycles and energy efficiency benefits, LED technology will likely evolve to meet widespread lighting needs. While holiday lights are comparably priced with conventional light strings, a lot of other LED lighting is still expensive. As technology improves in coming years, we are likely to see LED fixtures for all kinds of business and residential lighting. Already, bicycle lights and flashlights have largely switched to LED. In addition, your LED holiday lights are likely to last for many years to come.

  • To find about incandescent light string recycling options in your region, contact your municipal office or Electrical Utility provider.

    In BC, the Recycling Council of British Columbia's Recycling Hotline at 1 800 677 4321. BC Hydro has set up incandescent light string recycling programs in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.