Every year, Gatlinburg, Tenn., goes all-out during the holidays, festooning
downtown trees, lamp posts and storefronts with millions of glittering, colored
This coming holiday season, the lights will look even more dazzling than they
have in years past. That’s because Gatlinburg now uses LED lights instead of
traditional incandescent bulbs.
“We’ve heard comments that they’re more attractive and classier than the traditional
lights,” says Dave Perella, executive director of the Gatlinburg Dept. of Tourism.
Light-emitting diodes have been around for about 30 years, and until recently
have been best known for supplying the light for the numbers on digital alarm
clocks and the displays on televisions, DVD players, stereos and other appliances.
In the last five years though, technology has created LED light bright enough,
and polychromatic enough, to work as holiday lights.
“They used to be just indicators, and now they are illuminators,” says Jordon
Papanier, marketing manager at Ledtronics, a Torrance, Calif.-based manufacturer
of LED holiday lights.
For homeowners, there’s good news, and not-so-good news, when it comes to using
LED lights during the holidays. The good news, especially for environmentally
minded homeowners, is that LED lights use 70 to 90 percent less energy than
their predecessors. A string of incandescent holiday lights consumes 157.5 watts
an hour, while the same string of LED lights uses 12.5 watts per hour, Perella
Their construction - a semiconductor chip encased in epoxy, compared to an
incandescent light’s thin shell of glass around a delicate filament - also gives
them a long life. In fact, LED lights last 50,000 to 100,000 hours, compared
to 2,000 for a traditional bulb. (In other words, chances are you won’t pull
LEDs out of storage, only to find that half of the lights have expired over
Less energy and longer lives mean that LED lights are cost-effective, especially
for homeowners who love to use lots of lights. Another benefit: Because they
use less energy, the lights are cool to the touch, and therefore safer.
LED lights are weatherproof, and perform well both inside and outside. Outside,
they look better if there’s not a lot of competition from landscape lighting
or streetlights. Inside, use them the same way you’d use a string of incandescent
The lights can be somewhat difficult to find, and they’re more expensive than
old-fashioned incandescent lights. LED holiday lights can cost up to $30 a strand,
compared to $6 or $7 for traditional lights.
And, Papanier cautions, you get what you pay for: Less expensive LED strings
feature red and yellow bulbs, not the more costly greens and blues.