December 18, 2011
I have seen plenty of light displays this year, and I am glad to see more of you joining me in using LED Christmas lights.
As an uber techie, this technological innovation was easy for me to grasp. The lights are brighter, they use less energy, they last longer, you can string together many more of them than traditional bulbs. So what if they're $12 per strand at Target?
OK, that is a big "so what?" there. As with most new technology, price is the main drawback to adoption. The first LED strands I bought were on clearance for either 50 percent or 75 percent off after Christmas, meaning I spent either $3 or $6 per strand and had to wait 11 months to use them.
When I moved into my house a couple of years ago, I came in a few months before Christmas without much in terms of outside decor. With a long porch that made hanging a decent amount of lights a task of reaching up instead of moving a ladder down the house, I decided to go the LED icicle route. I chose the cool white variety since they look more like the color of icicles.
Fast-forward a couple of years and I'm still on four strands on the porch. I'm never motivated enough to think about using a ladder to go up and down the house, especially since I would probably need to triple the amount of lights to go all the way down. But at least I know I could do this through daisy-chaining my lights instead of how I used to put lights up on my parents' house -- a series of four extension cords. I do not miss the restrictions of only connecting three strands!
So far I have seen one bulb go out among all of my strands. That's in two years, not two hours. If you have owned Christmas lights for more than a couple of years, you likely have many strands that half work because one bulb went out. I have played the "find that bulb!" game many times, only to just go down to the store and buy a new strand at $2. Thankfully that one dead bulb only affected it, not half the set. I think this is a wiring technology instead of the actual bulbs, but I can simply say "hooray!" for fixing one bulb at a time.
I keep hoping these bulbs will go down in price, but the Philips brand sits there at Target for $11.99 every year. I have found some other brands at Target and other stores that are a little bit cheaper, but I worry about quality. When CFL light bulbs started coming in affordable sets at about $2 per bulb, they didn't last nearly as long as the bulbs I spent $6 or $8 on. But so far I'm happy, and I think they help brighten up the place a bit more and use less energy in the process.
Have the rest of you joined this trend? Are you sticking with the old-school strands since they're cheaper? Are you waiting for old lights to go to upgrade?
Michael Buckelew is part of the digital team for SCNI, the parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post.