Navigant Research Blog

LEDs Light the Way to Lower Utility Bills

Krystal Maxwell — December 21, 2015

With the holiday season upon us, residential and commercial buildings, trees, and yards are brightly lit with holiday lights. With decorating and purchasing new lights comes the decision to use traditional incandescent lights or LED alternatives.

Light Lifespans

While the upfront cost of LED holiday lights can be 2 to 3 times the initial cost of traditional miniature lights, there are significant benefits to LED lights. Incandescent lights last roughly 2,000 hours of use before failing, while LEDs can last for up to 20,000 hours. If you left your holiday lights on for 8 hours per day for 30 days, LEDs would theoretically last you 83 holiday seasons. While this number is extremely high and users will most likely not get this many uses from their LED lights, they still do have a much longer lifespan than incandescent lights. Duke Energy advertises that LEDs will last 10 years longer than regular incandescent lights, which is a more reasonable length of time to expect to use the same decorations, since other factors such as wiring can ruin a sting of lights before the bulb no longer functions.

Energy and Cost Savings

Beyond the extended lifespan of LEDs, the amount of energy used (and thus overall cost) is substantially less. Duke Energy’s Holiday Lighting Calculator allows users to calculate the amount of energy saved by switching to LEDs. For example, someone using five strands of 100-bulb mini-incandescent lights, two strands of C7 incandescent bulbs, and one strand of C9 incandescent bulbs for 6 hours per day would add $34.20 to their electric bill each month. On the other hand, someone using the same number of strands with LED lights would spend $4.23 each month. While the savings are clear in this example of what a residential customer might spend, this is a limited amount of lights compared to many decoration displays on residential buildings. Additionally, savings for retail clients are even greater, as the number of lights increases along with the average number of hours the lights are on.

If you’re interested in decreasing energy use even more, Anear sells Solar String Lights with an attached solar panel in 100-bulb strands. Energy from the solar panel is stored in the light string’s built-in nickel-metal hydride batteries, which provide up to 8-10 hours of power to the lights at night. These will only work for exterior decorations and the solar panel will need to have full sun exposure to maximize usage.

If the initial additional upfront cost is not an issue, LED holiday lights are a preferable choice. They are better for the environment, using 90% less energy than incandescent lights. They also decrease the added cost to your utility bill and are safer than incandescents—LEDs produce less heat than traditional bulbs, reducing the chance of a fire. With the cost of LEDs decreasing over the past few years and more holiday lighting choices available, more consumers are expected to reach for the LED option in the coming years. Enterprising shoppers should look for post-holiday sales in January and save even more in preparation for next year’s holiday season.

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