LED lights can be a great gift to the holiday decorator. Even though they cost more than other types, they last longer, produce far less heat and use less energy.
The letters stand for “light-emitting diode” (but if you’re like some of my neighbors, they might more appropriately stand for “love elaborate displays.”) Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs are solid-state. There’s no filament that heats up with wasteful thermal radiation. Instead, light is released when electrical current excites electrons in the diode.
Just in time for the peak decorating season, here’s a stocking full of tidbits about LED lights, compiled by our researchers and based on interviews with highly rated lighting and electrical experts and other sources:
Plan to spend about four times more for a string of LED lights than for traditional bulbs. However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical strand of incandescent lights may last three years, while a comparable strand of LEDs can last 20 years or more.
An LED bulb generally consumes 75 percent less energy than its incandescent counterpart.
You can connect up to 25 strands of lights end-to-end and not worry that you’ll blow a fuse.
Size matters: Earlier versions of holiday light bulbs began with what are known as C6 bulbs, where the C stands for “cone-shaped” and the 6 refers to the diameter of the bulb in eighths of an inch. Modern versions of the C6 are strawberry-shaped bulbs often used indoors or draped around doorways. C7 and C9 bulbs are commonly hung along rooflines or to wrap around trees.
Popular LED holiday bulb types include the globe-shaped G series, or T, which are small tubes. Mini-tube LEDs are recommended for indoor Christmas trees.
Other types of LED lights that can make your holiday bright include rope lights, which are encased in flexible plastic tubing, and net lighting, which can be draped over a bush or tree, avoiding the usual tangled mess.
Colors of LED holiday lights are as varied as their incandescent counterparts. Newer versions can match the warm, candle-like hues of incandescents.
No matter what kind of bulbs you invest in for holiday decorating, keep in mind that if you would rather not get up on a ladder and hang strand after strand, there are service providers who do that kind of work.
Categories of professionals who can help with holiday decorating include landscapers, interior decorators, roofers and window washers. A job can range from lighting a single tree to stringing lights across the whole house.
The cost for professional holiday decorating help can vary widely, but most experts say to expect to pay from $800 to $1,500 the first year.
While you may find experts who have time to fit your decorating job in for this season, you’ll guarantee an even more relaxed holiday next year if you contact them months ahead of time. Or, if you find it fun to decorate, you might consider hiring help with the more onerous task of taking everything down and storing it away.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter at @Angie_Hicks.