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I have been decorating since 2001. I’ve been watching the technology change in the Christmas light business, and find it interesting—as this is what we do. Back in the early days, (2000-2001) incandescent lights dominated the market. The nice thing was they gave a nice warm light, but the amount of power they used was substantial. I know in my own personal house I had to hang a sub panel with 8 different breakers for 8 plugs so it would run the Christmas lights at my house and most years it wasn’t even that elaborate of a display. Customers were also adding plugs and breakers to get their displays to work. This high power usage was even more obvious, in the lighted theme parks where the power usage would be great.
Through the evolution of the light bulbs, LED (light emitting diode) it’s no longer necessary to use a lot of electricity. If you don’t know what LED means, it’s actually pretty simply. LED is basically a piece of metal aka a diode that burns. The interesting thing about LED lights is that they are actually changing as the diode burns. So you get a little bit of color fade or color drop, however the life expectancy is about 10 to 20 years. I believe that is only possible when the lights are just turned on all the time. When we do a light show, we have them flashing, bursting, flickering on and off- we do not get ten years out of them, in those harsh conditions.
LED lights did change the world and Christmas lights—by all means. The 1st generation of white LED’s (back in early 2000) didn’t’ quite get the color right, they actually had a bluish tint to them and they just weren’t as warm and inviting as the incandescent. Maybe with one bulb you couldn’t tell the difference, but If you put an LED House up against a lighted incandescent house the LED’s looked stark white and maybe even possessed or something, while the incandescent looked soft and yellowish glow. Over time the LED’s became better as consumers requested different colors.
With white lights there are 100’s of white lights. We just think of white as white, but there are cool whites, warm whites, winter whites—you get the idea. Warm white is the area that we want to be in with LED bulbs for Christmas decorating. There are actually 5 categories of warm white LED’s that have a different hue and color to them. It was a progression of over 10 years to develop a nice warm white LED lights.
Another advantage of LED’s are the acrylic cases. Incandescent lights were very fragile and would break easily. Today’s LED lights allow us to pull the lights across rooftops or accidently drop them. The durability of the bulbs is great and they last a long time. Since they last so long it reduces service calls and associated labor costs. I’d say most of our service calls these days (2016) come from an LED white light having a different hue or not having the exact same hue than the LED strand. This usually happens when we replace an older LED with a new LED bulb. Don’t forget, I mentioned that LED’s are constantly having tiny color changes as the Diode burns down. Now you might not notice a difference in color especially if it in a single bulb, but if you were to take one of the older LED’s and put it into a new LED strand you would see the color difference.
LED technology is allowing us to run parks, elaborate homes and businesses on very little power. Back in the day we used to struggle with where we could find enough power to light up all the strands. We had to add breakers, panels, go to back porches, we were always looking everywhere for more power sources. It was a lot of trouble and if you needed an electrician it could be much more costly. Nowadays we only need one or two plugs to run an entire house. Of course, elaborate designs will require more than that, but overall it’s so much easier getting power to the lights. It’s also nice to hear our customers say they noticed lower power bills while enjoying their lights.
LED technology is still evolving and we are now getting what are call RGB lights. I’ll talk about them in my next article, but basically it’s taking LED lights to the next level.
So let’s recap the benefits to LED lights:
It will be exciting to watch and see how far technology takes it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to place an LED bulb in a high ceiling fixture and know that you will never need to replace it? When that happens I suspect LED bulbs may be expensive, but think of the benefits of never having to pull out a ladder and risk life and limb replacing bulbs.
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