Americans’ holiday lights use a shocking amount of electricity. In fact, our seemingly small decorations end up using more electricity than entire countries – like El Salvador or Ethiopia – use in a full year.
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But thanks to LED lights, you don’t have to sit in the dark or skip any of the festivities out of guilt for sucking up electricity. Here’s everything you need to know about switching out your twinkle lights and the best options to shop for. (And get inspired to switch out your old tacky decor while you’re at it with these 12 plastic-free, zero-waste holiday decor ideas we love.)
WHY BUY LED CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
LED lights use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescents. They also last 25 times longer, are more resistant to breaking, and are significantly safer. And thanks to cooler bulbs, LEDs reduce the risk of fire and won’t burn little fingers.
They might be more expensive upfront, but Energy Star expects its certified lights to still be wrapped around your Christmas tree 40 years from now. Plus, in addition to lasting longer, LED lights are cheaper to power. It costs $10 to light a 6-foot tree with conventional incandescent lights for 12 hours a day for 40 days and only $0.27 for the same amount of time with LED strands.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR LED LIGHTS
Save even more energy by always using a timer for your lights, or at least only turn them on at night when you are home and awake. It’s true you don’t have to worry about the LED bulbs getting too hot, but why use the electricity when no one is there to see them?
Consider using fewer strands and avoid other energy-intensive decorations like inflatables—sometimes less is more! Before you put everything up, you can calculate how much energy your lights will use and how much you’ll end up paying with this energy calculator.
Green up your decor by making your own tree ornaments out of oranges and grapefruits:
It’s also a good idea to connect your lights to a power strip to prevent the strands from using energy even when they are turned off. Simply switch off the entire strip when not in use to prevent paying for wasted electricity.
Finally, always recycle your old incandescent or broken holiday lights when they no longer work and can’t be repaired. Check with your local recycling center to see if they take holiday lights or mail them to a recycling program like this one. (Check out our guide on how to recycle almost anything, including Christmas lights.)
Ready to make the switch? Here are our top picks for timeless, low-energy twinkle lights that you’ll look forward to season after season.