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Do I have to throw out my Christmas lights?

Here’s another discussion of how to shrink your energy footprint.  It’s not always easy to know what to do.  This article from Slate.com considers whether to buy new Christmas lights or Hanukkah candles, or continue using the ones you’ve been using for years.  The recomendation for Hanukkah candles is simple:  replace paraffin candles with beeswax ones.  For Christmas lights, it’s a little more complicated.  Old-style incandescent bulbs use a LOT of electricity.  According to the Department of Energy, Christmas lights consume 6 terawatt-hours per year, as much electricity as is consumed by half a million homes in a year.  The newer LED bulbs uses MUCH less electricity (five watts vs. 36 per average strand).  LEDs also last longer, with an operating life of more than 20,000 hours, or 10 times longer than incandescents.  LEDs also pose less fire risk, and contain no mercury.  On the negative side, LEDs are usually more expensive to buy (although they’re cheaper to operate over the long term).  Poorly designed LEDs may be less bright than the older incandescents, so shop around for ones you like. 
 
Botom line?  If you have large incandescents, replace them now with LEDs.  If you have mini-incandescents, you could keep them until they burn out, but switching to miniature LEDs is the greenest choice.  And you can put up fewer strands, and keep them on for fewer hours.  You could, of course, wait until next year in the hope that brighter and more efficient alternatives may be available, but you’ll be foregoing the energy and cost savings you’ll gain during this year’s Christmas season.

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