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Get The LED Out Reinvent your light show this holiday season with energy-efficient LED lights

Posted 22-OCT-07

Every year, Gatlinburg, Tenn., goes all-out during the holidays, festooning downtown trees, lamp posts and storefronts with millions of glittering, colored lights.

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 says.

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 the summer.)

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 lights.

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.

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