Do you love those displays of Christmas (or Hannukah or Kwanza or ...) lights? Are you awed by those so impassioned that they string up 1000s of lights in awesome displays worthy of a city center? I once did, pausing on cold winter nights, white clouds issuing from my mouth, enjoying being in the glow of beautiful displays. And, in a way, I was inspired that they would spend $1000s (or $10,000s) on displays and the electricity to power them so that others could enjoy the sight on those cold winter nights.
But ... no longer ... not for awhile. Far too often nowadays, my winter evenings I can wear short sleeve shirts rather than bulky coats and gloves. And, energy is no longer a question simply of money. I've reached the point of feeling like a Scrooge -- feeling outrage over the tons of C02 going into the atmosphere via neighbors' 10,000 light displays rather than feeling 'joyous'.
But, a compromise does exist ... there is a path for me to not be McScrooge ... that is to use LED lights. But, far too many are unwilling to spend the money upfront to cut their electricial use, reduce their pollution, and -- actually -- save quite a lot of money.
My household is dominated by Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) (see Making Energy CENTS -- From the Home to the Globe) and now I am putting in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in recessed lighting (elxcellent light and dims well, unlike CFLs). When going to dine with friends, in one hand is the bottle of wine and the other carries CFL bulbs.
The Holiday season brings me to extend this into the domain of decorative lighting -- of replacing incandescents with LED Christmas lights.
In the hardware store last weekend, I was pleased to see real options for LED lighting -- even if there were 20 times as many incandescents as LEDs. While stopping to admire the LEDs, I convinced two people to pony the upfront investment in LED Christmas lights. Those four boxes -- what a signal achievement -- were overwhelmed by the flow of traditional bulbs. The woman who had to buy 40 boxes for her new McMansion simply said that she couldn't afford the LEDs ...
How many pounds of carbon will go into the atmosphere to support her 4000 lightbulbs? And, in pure cash terms, how much will she spend for electricity? And, how many multiples will that be of the LED lightbulbs price? But, she has the Walmartization issue of the sticker price rather than having any clue as to the long term implications of what she's bought/buying.
Hmmm -- let us work the numbers and understand what is going on here.
- 100 old-style incandescents at 5 watts each = 500 watts
- 12 hours / day for 30 days: = 360 hours
- One month of lights on all night: 180 kilowatts
- 180 kwh @ 8 cents kwh = $16.40
That is the traditional incandescent option, let us try this with LEDs.
We can look to mini-bulbs, which use roughly a tenth of that, or .5 watts each. Thus, that 360 hours of 100 lights would run $1.64.
And, then, there are LEDs, which cut the power required by another 90 percent.
- 100 LEDs at .05 watts each = 5 watts ... (based on this LED lighting)
- going through the same calculation ...
- 1.8 kwh @ 8 cents kwh = $0.14 (actually, 14.4 cents)
At 8 cents per kilowatt hour (below the average domestic price in the United States), the incandescents cost $16.24 more per year to own/operate.
- Traditional incandescents cost: $3.99/string (before tax)
- LEDs: $26.99/string
At $16.24 less per string per year, the LEDs would be paid off in less than 2 years and keep on saving.
And, if one is going to be putting on lights, the incandescents would put out roughly 250-300 pounds of CO2 in that month versus the roughly two pounds from LEDs.
And, of course, all these calculations are just for one string of lights. Driving around the community, 2500 light displays are not unusual and there are a few that must have over 10,000 lights. And, there are the public displays, including parks with miles of Christmas light displays. Just how much electicity is being burned and how much carbon going into the air to support these displays?
We will be in a far better situation when people celebrate through taking a deep breath of fresh air rather than adding those tons of C02 with 24/7 light pollution.
If you love Christmas lights, time to get rid of those incandescents and replace them with LEDs. They are available on online (an example) and in an ever growing number of stores.
By the way, there are even more benefits to LEDs as, due to the lower power requirements, the LEDs can have MUCH longer strings (easily 10x the bulbs in one string), are FAR less likely to cause fires, are nearly indestructable, and last FAR longer (probably would be working 50 years from now).
Thus, again, if you love Christmas light displays, buy yourself a gift and replace your incandescent strings with LEDs ...
- Your pocketbook will thank you ...
- Earth will thank you ...
And, I will thank you ... As, for me, a true tipping point in the battle against Global Warming will be when I don't feel like Scrooge ... and we start pulling the plugs on non-LED lights ...
PS: And Daily Kos Environmentalists will likely also thank you ...
PSPS: See Making Energy Cents - From Home to the Globefor a discussion of how I discovered that my CFLs were providing me a 200% Return on Investment (ROI) every year, year in and year out.