Price drops raise popularity of LED lights for holidays
Monday, November 18, 2013
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Plummeting prices have resulted in a noticeable shift away from incandescent holiday bulbs and toward energy-efficient LED lights that can pay for themselves in reduced electricity costs in as little as two years or less.
LED lights have been around for years, but until recently the technology was expensive and had limited appeal, The Kansas City Star reported. But dramatic price reductions have made LED Christmas lights cheap enough that retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco are devoting much more space for them.
Wal-Mart is devoting half of its shelf space for Christmas lights to LEDs, with a string of 50 mini LED lights going for $5, down from $6.30 last year, the newspaper reported.
Costco is selling no incandescent Christmas lights at all. General Electric, which has sold holiday lighting for more than a century, expects that two out of every five strings of lights sold this year will be LEDs.
Sales of the LED lights at Light Bulbs Etc. in Lenexa, Kan., were up 50 percent last year, general manager Larry Fuqua said, and are expected to be strong again this year.
“I think eventually we’ll see Christmas incandescents go away,” he said.
Christmaslightinstaller.com, a company that sells, rents and installs Christmas lights in several cities, including Kansas City, said 30 percent of new customers are opting for LEDs.
The lights can save about 80 percent or more of the energy used by incandescent bulbs.
Holiday lights might seem like an unlikely target for energy savings, since they’re used a few hours a day over a couple months, at most, before being packed away until the next year. But according to a U.S. Department of Energy study, they use enough electricity to provide power to 200,000 homes for a year.
Nobody expected to see LED prices fall so fast, said Terry McGowan, director of engineering and technology for the American Lighting Association. When he went to a trade show earlier this year where retailers purchased Christmas lights to sell this holiday season, he found most of those being offered were LEDs.
“We are going to see a lot of action,” he said.
It can take a few years for LEDs replacing small incandescent bulbs to recover their extra cost, but the larger the incandescent bulb, the more an LED can save.
At Costco, one of the largest Christmas LEDs for outside and indoor displays costs $15.50 for a set. If used for six hours per day over two months, based on local electricity prices they will save $11 in just the first season.
The deal becomes even better because LEDs are more durable than incandescent bulbs and last about 10 times longer.
Despite all of that, some think LEDs still have a way to go before they make a good Christmas light. While they have good blue and red colors, the white bulbs still have some greenish-blue tint.
Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza, for instance, is using a small number of the lights but will wait until their aesthetics improve before buying more.
“We’re on the path to energy efficiency,” said Kara Lowe, promotions manager for Highwood Properties, the owner of the Plaza.
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