Associated Press, Published November 09 2011
Holiday lights are exempt from bulb efficiency law
From outdoor icicle lights hanging from eaves to strands of twinkle lights wrapped around a Christmas tree, lights used for holiday decorating are considered “specialty bulbs” and aren’t affected by the standards being phased in starting in January. That was welcome news to holiday light fanatic Chuck Taylor, who said the standards created a stir in the online
forum he runs at Planetchristmas.com.
“This was a very popular subject last year,” said Taylor, a holiday light consultant in Franklin, Tenn.
Many Christmas lights already are more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescents.
“To be honest, the little niche of the Christmas light industry already has been fast moving toward LEDs,” said Garth Svenson, president of the Christmas Dove in Barrington, N.H. The store is the largest of its kind in New England, with more than 30 rooms full of Christmas decorations and lights.
Some fans of traditional lights complain that the more energy-efficient LED lights don’t produce the same colorful halo effect as older bulbs. Strands of LEDs also are more expensive than incandescents, though the LEDs are much cheaper to run and are often more durable.
The new efficiency standards apply to the familiar household screw-in bulbs, and while they don’t specifically ban traditional incandescents, they require bulbs to have a higher level of efficiency than the classics can produce. Joseph Higbee, a spokesman for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, said there are new halogen incandescent bulbs that meet the standards, and consumers have a choice among those, compact fluorescent and the light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs, he said.
LED holiday lights have been around for years, and sales have increased as new varieties – including some that attempt to mimic the warmer glow of incandescent lights – hit store shelves. The Home Depot, which started selling LED lights in 2006, sold enough strands last year to circle the globe 1.5 times. Through Sunday, customers can bring in old working or nonworking light strands to be recycled and can get a coupon for up to $5 off the purchase of LED string lights.
In Claremont, N.H., Brian Mitchell was busy last week setting up the 45,000-light display he puts up in his yard every year. He spent about $1,200 on LED lights this year, not because he was worried the old lights would disappear from store shelves but because he wants to keep up with the latest in lighting technology.
Mitchell, whose obsession started with decorating every room in his house with paper chains when he was a kid, set up his first outdoor display about 20 years ago with one plastic Santa and a single string of lights. Today, his small yard is covered with snowmen, toy soldiers, a miniature carousel and other scenery, all adorned with lights programmed to flash and blink in synch to holiday music. It takes him about 10 hours to program each minute of the 7-minute show he runs every 15 minutes nightly from Nov. 25 until Christmas.
“Seeing how much the people enjoy it drives me to get it done every year,” said Mitchell, a grocer who donates the money he collects from his holiday light show to a children’s hospital.