What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lighting Your Home for the Holidays

With the Holiday season comes the holiday lights, strands and strands of them. We want our homes to sparkle with the glow of the holiday season. However, the new lights are nothing like those of days long ago. I can remember the Christmas lights of my youth. Our house always had blue lights on strands that would likely make anyone shudder today. They were painted, likely with lead paint, bulbs so when the paint peeled a little a glaring white light would peek out. These bulbs screwed in and a larger base but similar indoor lights had a smaller base. Fancier bulbs included the bubble bulbs that had some type of liquid in them that bubbled when heated.

Old Fashioned Bubbling Bulbs

These bubble bulbs were manufactured by Universal Electric Products, Montreal, Canada. They are part of my small Christmas ornament collection and while no longer in use they generate a lot of interest from the younger crowd.

That's just the problem with these bulbs is they did get hot, not warm, hot. Anyone interested in energy efficiency knows that heat produced by light bulbs is wasted. But the real problem that caused the bulb manufacturers to change was the threat of fire not energy efficiency. The first change I recall was the crystal lights put out by Noma. These glistening jewel lights because quite popular because of their crisp, clear colours but they still put out heat.

Somewhere along the line, mini lights came onto the market and still remain popular. They are inexpensive, easy to use and provide an appealing twinkling lighting. As energy costs soared, these Christmas lights became even more popular. But these too emit heat and can be quite frustrating trying to untangle or troubleshoot for a burned out bulb.

Now people are considering not only the financial savings of using lower cost lighting and that is a big factor, there seems to be a greater awareness of the environmental impact our use of energy causes. So with all this said, how can we light up our homes for the holidays without the financial or environmental impact?

We now have light emitting diode (LED) Christmas lighting that is far superior to any previous Christmas lighting. When I bought my first strand, the price for a 12' strand with 35 LED lights was $7.97 CDN. Compared to the mini lights, this was expensive but consider these lights are cool to the touch making them suitable for most holiday placements. They are rated for upto 20 years and there are no glass bulbs to replace or break. The energy savings comparison was extremely impressive! Six hundred C-7 lights would cost $31.30 for 30 days use, 6 hours perday at a cost of 12¢/kWh. Mini lights under the same conditions would cost $6 while the LED lights would cost 45¢. That means for 45¢ worth of electricity I could run 17.14 - 35 LED light strands. I was hooked after one strand and have been buying s strand or two when they go on sale. Now that "on sale" is important to me especially for items that will be used for such a short period of the year.

LED lights have a lovely brilliant colour with a nice twinkling effect. They are now available in novelty strands. The first sets of novelty LEDs I bought are star shaped programmable running LED strands. Eight different settings allow for lots of movement from these lights. We just bought the ColorWave LED strands from Holiday Creations. These lights use multicolour LEDs to change from one colour to another then back in a rather mesmerizing effect. We also bought two strands of the new multi-colours mini fat Albert style LEDs. These have a frosted appearance but are quite bright. I also noticed that Holiday Creations will be releasing Solarbrite LED strands so I will certainly be watching for those. With the variety of LEDs available for both indoor and outdoor use, the holiday lighting need not be restricted to one style and costly.

The new strands are all 25 bulb strands bring the total number of LED lights we have to 290. That means we can run all of the LED lights, 30 days for 6 hours per day for a cost of 21.75¢ at a rate of 12¢/kWh. Now our electricity is calculated at 5.5¢/kWh for the first 600 kWh, 6.5¢/kWh for anything above 600 kWh plus delivery, regulatory and debt retirement charges and GST so a total estimated cost per kWh is about 10¢. The payback period for each strand will be determined by the strand it is replacing. Ideally you should replace all C-7 strands because that is where the greatest energy savings is. Next replace mini light strands entirely if desired or as they become problematic.

Tips for Buying LED Christmas Lights:
☑ My rule of thumb is to never buy unless on sale. This just makes good economic sense. My husband bought the last four strands at half price.
☑ These lights are labelled indoor, indoor/outdoor, outdoor or battery operated. Buy appropriate LED strands for your needs and use only for their intended purpose.
☑ Look for the CSA and UL logos.
☑ View LED light strands as a long term holiday decoration. They are long lasting with no bulbs to break or replace so these are something that should give you years of use.
☑ Read and follow all safety precautions included with the LED light strand.
☑ Keep all packaging and receipt in case the strand fails. Most come with a replacement guarantee.

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Garden Gnome
© 2006