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All is bright—and efficient

What a shame that holiday lighting can lead to higher energy bills, but there are strategies that can save you money without dampening your holiday spirit.

One of the best ways to save energy is LED lights, which use about 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. The money saved depends on a lot of factors, including your electric rate and how many hours you use your holiday lights. 

One report shows that replacing five strings of traditional incandescent outdoor lights with LED bulbs could lower your bill from about $14 to 22 cents. Another report says replacing incandescent lights with LED bulbs on a typical indoor tree could lower your monthly cost from $15 to $2.

LED lights convert their energy to light, not heat, so you can string together additional light strands (always check the manufacturer directions). They are also safer for that reason.

Aside from their energy efficiency, LED lights can last longer—around 25 times longer than incandescent lights. The epoxy bulb also is more durable than glass lighting.

But an LED that is not designed properly can flicker, change color or draw power even when it’s turned off. To avoid these problems, purchase ENERGY STAR-rated LEDs.

Drawbacks and alternatives

The downside to switching to LED lights is the upfront cost–19 to 50 cents each for incandescent bulbs versus $1 or more for a replacement LED. But one calculation shows the estimated cost of buying and operating standard C-9 lights for 10 seasons is $122 for incandescent bulbs and $18 for LEDs. Plus, the LED lighting is more likely to last the full 10 seasons.

There are other ways to cut energy expenses. You can use decorative solar light sets, which store energy during the day and release light during the night. Timers also are a good idea because they can reduce energy use, especially if you don’t always remember to turn the lights off before bedtime.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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