Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

A Tale of Two Trees—and Their LEDs

December 20, 2017

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America’s two best known Christmas trees are in full holiday-season glory right now. And while they dazzle crowds with their state-of-the-art lighting displays, they’re also saving energy at the same time. That’s because they feature only LED holiday lights, which use just a fraction of the electricity used by the “old-fashioned” incandescent kind.

Here’s a quick look at these energy-efficient and tremendously beautiful holiday icons.

National Christmas Tree

Located in President’s Park on the Ellipse behind the White House, the National Christmas Tree features more than 75,000 LED holiday lights. They use only about one-fifth of the electricity a comparable design would use if it featured incandescent lights – so the cost to light the tree for a month will be less than $200.

The tree’s multicolored LED holiday lights feature approximately 250 gold-string and net LED lights, 350 warm-white LED twinkling icicle light strings, 80 gold holographic stars with cool-white LED lights, and 120 cool-white LED net lights for the mesh ribbon that winds its way down the tree from the top.

A Tale of Two Trees and their LEDS

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Located at “30 Rock” (30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City), this year’s tree features more than 50,000 multicolored LEDs on about five miles of wire. Solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller Center buildings help power the tree’s LEDs, which reduce electricity consumption from 3,510 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 1,297 kWh per day over incandescent holiday lights – saving as much energy as a single family in a 2,000-square-foot home would use in a month.

The tree is topped with a huge (9½ feet in diameter and 1½ feet deep), eye-popping Swarovski crystal star, which has 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets. The star features energy-efficient LED bulbs and a state-of-the-art computer program that includes more than 1,000 programmable channels and creates a dynamic twinkling effect through customized light sequencing.

But the trees have not always been so luminescent.

The first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was lit in 1933 and had just 700 lights. It’s been lit with energy-efficient LEDs since 2007. This year’s tree is an 80-year-old Norway spruce from State College, PA. It stands 75 feet tall, is 50 feet in diameter, and weighs more than 12 tons. It’s estimated that 800,000 people will see the tree each day throughout the holiday season. After it’s taken down on January 7, it will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree isn’t the only one with such a deep, rich history.

The tradition of having a National Christmas Tree goes back 95 years, and for most of that time living trees have been used instead of cut trees. The present tree is a Colorado blue spruce from Winchester, VA, that’s about 30 feet tall and was planted in October 2012. 

This is the ninth consecutive year LED lights have been used exclusively to light the National Christmas Tree. The tree is cared for by the National Park Service and will be lit through January 2.

For more information on how you can save energy and money with LED holiday lights, visit the DOE Energy Saver website.