Department of Energy

Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Holiday Lights

December 5, 2014

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With a fiery past and a bright future, here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about holiday lights. | Graphic by <a href="/node/379579">Sarah Gerrity</a>, Energy Department.

With a fiery past and a bright future, here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about holiday lights. | Graphic by Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department.

This article is part of the Energy.gov series highlighting the “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” Be sure to check back for more entries soon.

5.  Holiday lights have a long, fiery history. Candles were the original holiday lights, posing fire hazards for generations until Thomas Edison created the first electric lighting display for the holidays at his Menlo Park lab in 1880. While incandescent bulbs are less dangerous than open flame, they still cause an average of 230 home fires each year. In contrast, LED bulbs are cool to the touch.

4.  You can recycle your old holiday lights. Recycling programs around the country will take your old incandescent lights and recycle them for free. Some even offer rebates or discounts on LED lights to make the switch to more efficient lighting even easier. Find recycling programs at home improvement stores before the holidays or through online programs like this one year-round.

3.  LEDs are worth it. Yes, LED holiday lights cost more upfront than incandescent strands, but they’ll save you money in the long run. LEDs consume 80 percent less energy than their traditional counterparts, and they last 25 times longer.

2.  Even when turned off, your lights are still using energy. This is called phantom energy, and it costs Americans $100 a year on average. If your lights have an on/off switch, save money by plugging them into a power strip and turning it off when not in use, especially when you go on vacation.

1.  Girls are representing their home states with lights in the nation’s capital. Through Google’s Made with Code program, girls across the country coded the LED lighting displays on Christmas trees representing their state or territory at the White House this year. The program encourages girls to explore STEM fields and become the next generation of #WomenInSTEM.

Learn more about LEDs and other options to make informed lighting choices all year long.