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Low Energy Lights

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Low Energy Lights

Millions of colourful lights illuminate the night air, shining iridescently through snow-covered bushes and trees and casting a romantic glow. However, times have changed since Edison's incandescent light bulb moment in 1879, and the rising cost of energy and our environmental responsibilities are taking some of the romance out of extravagant light displays.

Carollers, roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate, and horse-drawn sleighs or hay wagons are common sights during the holiday season. It makes you want to bundle up and join the fun in brightly lit parks.

Millions of colourful lights illuminate the night air, shining iridescently through snow-covered bushes and trees and casting a romantic glow. However, times have changed since Edison’s incandescent light bulb moment in 1879, and the rising cost of energy and our environmental responsibilities are taking some of the romance out of extravagant light displays.

Proactive Encouragement

Power companies across the country are offering incentives for communities to switch to power-smart options. One example, offered by Manitoba Hydro last year, was the LED Holiday Lighting Program that encouraged municipalities to exchange their incandescent holiday lights for energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights at no cost. Almost 13,000 light strings were exchanged, resulting in a saving of nearly one gigawatt-hour province-wide, which is enough energy to power 31 electrically heated homes.

As individuals, we can contribute by making informed choices to help save energy, money, and the environment as we plan our luminescent decorations.

The Smaller, the Better

Many of us have already taken the first step in switching from the 7-watt bulbs, which consume 175 watts per 25-light string, to the 5-watt bulbs, which use 30 percent less energy.

The incandescent mini-lights are an even better energy-saving choice as they use only one-tenth the energy of traditional incandescents and generate much less heat. A 100-light string uses about 40 watts.

Slinky and Stringy

Rope lighting consists of miniature incandescent lights encased in flexible plastic tubing about a half-inch in diameter. The bulbs use about 0.5 watts of power and are rated to last over 20,000 hours.

Becoming ever more popular are the artificial trees with built-in fibre-optic cabling which spreads light throughout the tree from a single incandescent bulb. The heat generated by the bulb is generally between 5 and 20 watts, which leaves the branches–where the tiny fibres distribute the light–cool to the touch.

The Ultimate Choice

The most energy-efficient lights, available in various styles and sizes, use LED technology far superior to standard incandescent light strings. The beneficial LEDs

  • are energy-efficient, using 0.8 watts per LED C7 multicolour bulb
  • have a life span up to 100,000 hours or more indoors (half that outdoors)
  • are more durable, with no filaments or glass bulbs to break
  • produce minimal heat, reducing the risk of fire and greenhouse gas emissions
  • come with a warranty–minimal one year but up to a limited lifetime warranty by some manufacturers

So whether you’re planning to shop for this season or are thinking ahead for next year, consider the environment as well as your pocketbook for a win-win solution in your colour-display decision-making process.

Decorating an Eight-Foot Christmas Tree:

Type of bulbPower required (Watts)Energy used (kWh/yr)Cost of electricity/yrApproximate number of strings / bulbs needed
Incandescent C-7 (5 watt)62597$6.135 strings / 125 bulbs total
Incandescent mini-lights15023$1.473 strings / 300 bulbs total
LED C-6 lights142$0.144 strings / 280 bulbs total

Based on holiday lighting used for 31 days a year, five hours a day, cost of electricity at 6.33 cents per kilowatt hour.

Source: bchydro.com/powersmart/elibrary/elibrary8849.html

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