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‘Tis the Season…

Right around this time every year, I make a promise to myself that I will invest in LED Christmas lights. This is the third year I've blown my promise. Three years ago, a 200-bulb string of LEDs approached the $50 mark. This year, pre-Black Friday, the same strand was closer to $29. Still I hesitate.

The reasons vary. Year 1, they were too expensive. Year 2, they were out of LEDs when I finally decided to make the switch. This year, I talked to an expert on the matter — my brother — and found out there are some complications with changing bulbs. I also cleaned out my garage and found a dozen strands of conventional lights I forgot I had, and they even work.

I am not among the people who enter their homes in Christmas decorating contests. My home is surrounded by shrubs and bushes that look great when they are strung with lights. During the dark, gray winters of New England, it's nice to come home to lit-up trees — except when that one strand blows out and half the display goes dark.

The Wall Street Journal published an article this week comparing LED costs for big users of lights, such as department stores. The cost-per-LED is still pretty high. The cost savings for industrial users of LEDs really comes in during replacement. You actually have to use cherry-pickers to replace parking-lot lights and technicians for overhead lights and lamps in freezers. The Journal cited something like $50 per hour to replace a light bulb. But if you only have to replace that bulb once every five years, that's a big savings.

Back to Christmas lights. There are about three major kinds of LEDs — button lights, bulbs, and miniature lights that look like the typical “twinkle” lights I use now. At least one of those types didn't allow you to easily replace the bulbs, at least when my brother bought them. Now it looks like there is a little hinge you can undo to replace the bulbs. But I haven't gotten that far yet.

I figure I lose between four and eight strands, 50 to 100 lights per strand, every year. First I replace the fuses. Then I look for bulbs that are broken or loose. I yield about two strands for those efforts, and throw the rest away. Then I go to a discount store (around here, it's Ocean State Job Lot) and pick up a couple replacement strands. I get through the current winter season and then start all over again.

This was going to be the Year of the LED. We haven't started decorating yet — it's been 60 degrees here, and it feels like spring. I haven't tested the dozens of strands that I used last year. I'm trying to figure out a risk/reward ratio that works. How many LEDs does it take to restore the average homeowner to sanity?

Stay tuned.

9 comments on “‘Tis the Season…

  1. rohscompliant
    December 1, 2011

    My house in New England is now all lit up w/ led strands ……….i miss the warm glow of the old style incandescent bulbs………….my house sticks out due to the led's in my neighborhood full of old style lights………..led's currently cannot replicate that warm white light glow. and, i have noticed that multi color leds tend to accentuate the blue light more than the others….switched to led because like u i was tired of replacing strands…..Merry Christmas to all!!!!

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 1, 2011

    I feel your pain! What's worse is mixing the LEDs with the incandescents. I'm not ready to go there yet. I'll either drop $$$ on the LEDs, or try to scrape another year out of tiny fuses and replacement bulbs.

  3. Jay_Bond
    December 2, 2011

    Living here in Michigan I can feel your pain about the dark bleary winters. Unfortunately we just got hit with 6 inches of wet snow before I could get our lights and inflatable’s set up. It’s going to be a long cold weekend with the lights. As for the LEDs, we started making the change over the last two years. While decorating our tree last year we fell short of LED lights and had to mix the types on our tree. Mixing lights is not really a good look.

    This year we got a jump start and planned on buying our missing lights around Thanksgiving. We were hoping to find some on sale; they are normally $8.99 for a strand of 60! The lights were reduced that week for $6.99. We planned on getting them later in the week. Then on Thanksgiving night I wanted to run and get them in case they were sold out before the weekend. They had a 1 day sale for $4.99 a box, we bought 8 boxes. Hopefully we have a bright blue LED tree this year.

     

  4. Eldredge
    December 2, 2011

    Barbara,

        Your article begs the question: How many technicians does it take to change an LED light bulb? (Probably many answers to that one)

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 2, 2011

    Eldridge–I've been running a lot of “how many” jokes through my mind as well. If any of them stick, I'll post 'em here…

  6. Susan Fourtané
    December 4, 2011

    Barbara, 

    I read your blog with curiosity and at the end I came back to these two key sentences: 

    “Right around this time every year, I make a promise to myself that I will invest in LED Christmas lights. This is the third year I've blown my promise.”

    To me, it seems like this LED Christmas lights issue has taken a different dimension already; it has gone from a question of thinking if you should buy them or not due to the high price to wondering about complications with changing bulbs to a broken promise to yourself. And this the point where you should stop and re-evaluate the whole issue. Why? 

    Because since the moment you made a promise to yourself the LED lights are crying out inside you and won't let you in peace until you finally get them. A promise to yourself should be sacred and kept and most important than anything else. 🙂 You will feel very good with yourself and your new LED Christmas lights this Christmas.

    Give them to you as a Christmas present. You have to give yourself something anyway, don't you? Just go and get them. You won't regret. I promise. Then take a picture and post it here with a blog update. 🙂

    -Susan 

     

     

  7. elctrnx_lyf
    December 4, 2011

    I hope you will defintely get the LED lights for this year christamas. I still belive they look much better and take very less power but at a little higher cost.

  8. Susan Fourtané
    December 5, 2011

    elctrnx_lyf, 

    Yes, they cost more at the beginning but then you see the savings in your bill as the energy consumption is going to be lower. It's like an investment, you have to wait to see the ROI. 

    Let's all vote for Barbara to get her LED Christmas lights this year. 🙂

    -Susan 

  9. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 5, 2011

    Susan–thanks for the pep talk!  You are right–it isn't a matter of if I buy LEDs, it's when I buy LEDs. As much as I want to save energy–and I do–it is more the simplicity that appeals to me. Every year I have strings of lights in various stages of repair and I then get annoyed when they don't work. Life is stressful enough this time of year…

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