By Seth Daniel
Christmas has gone high-tech, and in no small way have Christmas lights followed that trend.
As residents string up their annual Christmas light displays all over the city, no longer are style and color the only factor in the layout. Now, people are looking to save money in the process.
And many are doing it by switching to a more economical type of light.
The warm old, traditional Christmas light bulb is rapidly, over the last couple of years, being replaced by LED (light emitting diode) lighting – especially in outdoor displays. The LED lights are brighter and a little colder looking (you know, the really bright and sometimes bluish white lights), but they pack a tremendous savings – and lighting experts say manufacturers have come a long way recently in solving the technology’s initial complications.
“Manufacturers are starting to make the LED Christmas lights more crisp and more precise,” said Tom Coughlin, the community lighting program manager for National Grid. “They are now making some pretty good reds, blues and greens. Now you can see a lot of LED Christmas lights with good, crisp colors, not just that icy, blue-white color. It has changed. They’ve done a couple of different things. They’re using better materials and getting better with the color coatings on the bulbs. There’s been a pretty big advance in the last couple of years.”
And if one is still averse to these new lights – maybe being more of a traditionalist – then the price break cannot be disputed. While LED lights are more expensive to purchase, the electric bill savings is simply amazing.
National Grid estimated that a traditional Christmas light uses 10 watts per bulb. That means that a typical residential customer would pay $37.50 a month to operate 10, 25-bulb strings.
For those who use the traditional icicle lights, that cost is even higher because there are more bulbs per linear foot.
Meanwhile, LED lights use only 0.04 watts per bulb, as opposed to 10 watts per bulb. That means that 10, 100-bulb strings would cost electrical customers only 60 cents a month.
That’s a savings of nearly $37 per month, National Grid reported.
National Grid experts said that the savings more than pays for the additional purchase price.
That savings has gotten the attention of a number of businesses too.
The Hampton Inn on Lee Burbank Highway put out an LED Christmas display this year for the first time.
Front Office Manager Cathy Cucchiello said that the hotel’s parent company, Linchris, decided to go with LED light displays at all 25 of its properties, including Revere.
“The company decided to put up LEDs because they are more energy efficient and they decided to do that at all of their properties this year,” said Cucchiello.
She said they have gotten many comments from hotel guests and even from residents who have seen the bright display as they passed by.
“This year, since we’ve put them up, we’ve probably had 20 different calls from people asking us what company we used to put up the lights,” said Cucchiello. “Funny enough, it was just our chief engineer and our maintenance guy who put it out. They did a pretty good job because all of the guests love them. They’re very bright lights and guests have been telling us the can see them very clearly as they come in on the shuttle.”
National Grid experts said that the LED lights are also safer, as they don’t generate heat like traditional light bulbs.
“The LEDs definitely are a lot more energy efficient and operationally safer,” said Amy Zorich, a spokesperson for National Grid. “The old lights tend to get hot and can be dangerous on a tree or on a house. The new lights are much safer because they’re cooler.”
Coughlin said that LEDs are safer because they create light in a much different way than traditional bulbs.
“An incandescent (traditional) light creates light by heating up a filament,” he said. “What happens is a lot of energy is lost in creating this heat in order to make light. That’s why it’s more expensive to operate. LED creates light by passing atoms over a semi-conductor. What you’re doing is moving electricity from one circuit to another. What happens is you produce more light and less heat. Energy is not wasted in making heat, which is why it is safer and inexpensive.”
Going a step further, Coughlin said that people ought to get used to LED lighting because most experts, like himself, believe that all lighting will switch to LED in the very near future.
“We’ll be seeing the change to LED lights not just for Christmas lights, but for all the lights we use everyday,” he said. “LED Christmas lights are kind of ahead of the curve. LED lighting is improving all the time at a high rate. We think that traditional lighting – and even CFLs – will be replaced by LED lighting very quickly.”
But for now, the holiday lights are shining – and in a much different way than in the past.