Environment at Home: Be energy efficient with Christmas lighting

Special to Idaho StatesmanDecember 4, 2006 

If life exists somewhere else in space and they have telescopes, they'll probably be able to see the glow from several houses in the Treasure Valley this Christmas season.

Don't get me wrong; I like to see audacious light displays as much as the next guy.

But when I see those houses, I can't help but wonder if during other parts of the year those folks are really good about turning off lights when they aren't needed. And then, in the span of a few weeks, they blow all that conservation goodwill and more.

You don't have to revert back to the day of candles; the fire department doesn't need the extra business. But there are ways to save energy when it comes to Christmas lights.

First, remember, bigger isn't always better. A small, but original display might be better received than putting lights on every square inch of the house, garage and tool shed. If the three wise men need to find your house, surely they are smart enough to find the address and don't need the skies illuminated by your light display.

There also are more energy efficient options. These light tips come from the www.eartheasy.com Web site:

• Energy-saving outdoor lights use 5-watt bulbs instead of the conventional 7-watt bulbs. They come in 25-light strings, using 30 percent less energy than the same length of 7-watt bulbs. (These bulbs are not interchangeable on a string, as the screw bases are different sizes.) These energy-efficient bulbs deliver the same amount of light as the 7-watt light strings and are easier on the environment. They also give off less heat, making the lights safer.

• Outdoor mini-lights also save energy. A 100-light string uses only 40 watts. If you're buying a new set of lights, compare based on equal "lighted lengths." Some higher priced brands have 100 mini-lights for only 8 › feet of length, while some 100 mini-light strings cover up to 40 feet in length.

• For maximum miserliness, try LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights. They use up to 95 percent less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18, while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. As an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out, the rest of the strand will stay lit.

Whatever type of lights you choose and however you choose to display them, remember to turn them off before you go to bed or put them on a timer.

Do you have an idea or tip for our weekly Environment at Home column? Let us know. Send an e-mail to Local@IdahoStatesman.com with subject line "Enviro at Home."

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