LED Holiday Lights vs Traditional, Incadescent Holiday Lights

‘Tis the season and if you must do the obnoxious and wasteful decorating (my opinion), here is a breakdown of new LED lights vs traditional (incandescent) lights for you.

To compare, let’s say we use 500 bulbs (167 ft) to decorate a house, and we leave the lights on for 224 hours (28 days X 8 hours/day) throughout a holiday season.

Hard cost
LED 70-Bulb Pure White M5 Mini Lights (120V) = $21.98 ($.314/bulb)
• Green Wire, 24 ft (4-inch bulb spacing)

Cost = 500 X $.314 = $157.00

Traditional 100-Bulb Clear Mini Lights (120V) = $8.38 ($.0838/bulb)
• Green Wire, 34 ft (4-inch bulb spacing)

Cost = 500 X $.0838 = $41.90

Electricity cost
A 70 count strand of LED mini lights requires 4.8 watts = .06857 watts/bulb
A 50 count strand of standard mini lights requires 20.4 watts = .408 watts/bulb
Traditional lights use nearly 6 times more energy.

LED Electricity = 500 (lights) X .06857 (watts/light) X 224 (hours)= 7679.84 watt hours or 7.67984 kWh. At an electricity rate of $.13/kWh, the seasonal cost is $.9983792.

Traditional Electricity = 500 (lights) X .408 (watts/light) X 224 (hours) = 45696 watt hours or 45.696 kWh. At an electricity rate of $.13/kWh, the seasonal cost is $5.94048

Comparison and the results
The difference in hard cost = $157 (LED Cost) – $41.90 (Incandescent Cost) = $115.10 differential. In this scenario, we save $4.94/season, which means it would take 23.3 seasons to make up the difference.

The variables in the calculation in this scenario (1) are the number of lights used, (2) the hours you have them on, and (3) the cost of electricity.
(1) If the number of lights you use goes up, the fewer seasons it takes to recoup your investment. If the number of lights you use goes down, it will take longer to recoup your investment.
(2) If the number of hours you have the lights on goes up, the fewer seasons it takes to recoup your investment. If the number of hours you have the lights on goes down, it will take longer to recoup your investment.
(3) If the cost of electricity goes up, the fewer seasons it takes to recoup your investment. If the cost of electricity goes down, the longer it will take to recoup your investment.

Other advice
Put your lights on an outdoor, mechanical light timer. Few people are out after 2am. Install it in a place that is easy to access so you can make changes as the days get even shorter. And be sure that it is mechanical. Otherwise a digital timer may use just as much energy as you save. If you are using LED lights, this means that it will take longer for you to cover the extra cost of LED lights compared to incandescent lights.

Furthermore, we have to ask, how much does a timer cost and is there an ROI? They cost about $22.50. When electricity costs $.13/kWh, it will need to save 153.84 kWh to break even. If we cut the time we have incandescent lights on in half (45.696 X 1/2 = 22.848 kWh), it will take 6.73 seasons (153.84 / 22.848) to recoup your investment. With LED lights, if we cut the time in half (7.67984 X 1/2 = 3.84 kWh), it will take 40.06 seasons (153.84 / 3.84) to recoup your investment.

Going further
It’s glaringly obvious that buying a timer for LED lights is not worth it at all. Perhaps it works for incandescent bulbs? This makes me want to compare LED lights without a timer vs. traditional, incandescent lights with a timer.

$157 (LED Cost) – 22.50 (timer) – $41.90 (Incandescent Cost) = $92.60 differential

LED Electricity = 500 (lights) X .06857 (watts/light) X 224 (hours)= 7679.84 watt hours or 7.67984 kWh. At an electricity rate of $.13/kWh, the seasonal cost is $.9983792.

Traditional Electricity = 500 (lights) X .408 (watts/light) X 112 (hours) = 22848 watt hours or 22.848 kWh. At an electricity rate of $.13/kWh, the seasonal cost is $2.97024

In this case, we save $1.97/season, which means it would take 47.01 seasons to make up the $92.60 difference.

I’m thinking that traditional incandescent lights with the mechanical timer is the best way to go since it takes just 7 seasons to make up that investment in the timer. And you could probably shorten that timeline if you use the timer for other outside lights throughout the year.

Footnote
Some may say that the extra cost of LED lights or any other “greener” technology is worth the investment because of the net savings in energy and the reduction in greenhouse gases, pollution, etc. That is not true. Simply put, the price of anything we consume is equally proportional to the amount of waste, greenhouse gases, pollution, etc. that we are the cause of by purchasing the product. The price is reflective of the resources and energy that goes into producing and delivering the product (salaries, hard goods, utilities, logistics, etc). The exception to this rule are high-end brands where price tends to be more reflective of perceived or intangible value.

Okay, so that said doesn’t mean greener technologies are bad. One must realize that it takes early adopters to knowingly buy and invest in those products (idealists) or consumers to unwittingly make those incorrect valuations (sacrificial lambs) in order to bring products along the product life cycle in order to get economies to scale to where there is a net savings in time, money, resources, energy, etc. How we get there and encourage that behavior is another story about free-markets versus government or “collective” investment. I’ll leave that for another time. Hopefully you learned something from this.

This entry was posted in Energy, Featured, Reduce, Save Money, Shopping. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to LED Holiday Lights vs Traditional, Incadescent Holiday Lights

  1. Efficient Life Madmin says:

    I forgot something… my wife reminded me about the advertised extended life of LED lights versus incandescent lights. I did some thin research:

    When it comes to LEDs, no other technical spec is more misunderstood and misrepresented than LED bulb life expectancy. Many people confuse the bulb life hour rating with how long the light set itself will last. We are talking “light set”, not the light itself. For years, consumers have bought incandescent holiday lights with hour-ratings around 3,000 hours. This basically means that you can expect that bulb to last about that long. If a Christmas LED bulb is rated from 25,000 to 75,000 hours, then it should last that long, right? Unfortunately that is not the case. While the LED bulbs themselves may be rated to last for an incredibly long time, this number was established in a factory setting without taking into account other components of a whole “light set” that may cause it to go out as well as wear and tear from handling and weather.

    To put these hourly ratings into perspective, if a bulb is rated at 75K hours and you left the lights on for 8 hours a night for 28 nights, the bulbs would last 334 years! Obviously the wire, plugs, solder connections and other components will break down long before the lights reach even a fraction of the 75K-hour mark. So we must keep in mind that the hour-rating is only for the LED diode and has nothing to do with how long the “light set” will last. When it comes to any light, it comes down to the components such as the solder connections, rectifiers, wiring, insulation, etc.

    The information below summarizes the life expectancy for the most common three grades of LED Christmas lights.

    Commercial Grade LED
    Seasonal Basis – 6 to 7 Years
    Year Round Basis – 24 to 30 months

    Pro Grade LED
    Seasonal Basis – 6 to 7 Years
    Year Round Basis – 24 to 30 months

    Retail Grade LED
    Seasonal Basis – 2 to 3 Years
    Year Round Basis – 6 to 12 months

    From my own experience, my cheap and sometimes frustrating old-school incandescent lights last 2-3-4 seasons, so if a retail-grade LED strand lasts about the same, then say it is a wash meaning that retail-grade incandescent holiday lights will last just as long as retail-grade LED holiday lights due to the quality or reliability of the components that make up the strand, not just the filament or diode. Therefore, the advertised extended-life of LED lights is just smoke and mirrors or as I like to call it “a heaping steaming pile of bullshit.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *