Green Your Holiday Lights

At any given time, I usually have about three or four entries for this blog in the queue. This morning a subject came to me that jumped to the top of the list: holiday lighting. Has anyone thought about “greening” their holiday lighting? I know I have seen some news reports about various cities switching to L.E.D. holiday lighting, but I don’t recall seeing any stories about hotels.

Yesterday, I began e-mailing a few of my greener hotel friends to see if they have begun using L.E.D. holiday lighting. This morning I received the following response from one of them: :The L.E.D.s are still way too expensive comparatively to make it worthwhile. I can get a strand of 100 regular lights for US$4 at my local hardware store and that is without any sort of bulk discount.”

No one has ever mistaken me for a CFO,  but I did take Math II in high school and a finance class (dry and boring at the time) in college. Are L.E.D. holiday lights too expensive?

Here is the math: Pat Maher, green guru for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, an engineer by training and former VP of engineering for Marriott said my numbers look accurate and he commented that he has heard from several hotel brands who have used L.E.D. holiday lights with good success. They like the fact they are very dependable and don’t burn out midway through the season. One complaint has been the cool white light. This year, L.E.D. holiday lights are available in warm white which has been well received.

Assumption: 50 strands of 100 lights (5,000 lights) each burn from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. from November 27 thru December 31. (35 nights x 8 hours = 280 hours of burn time) This also assumes you have these on a timer or that someone remembers to turn the lights off??

The L.E.D. strand of 100 uses from 5-9 watts, depending on which color or color combination you choose. We will use 9 watts for this calculation. (9 watts x 50 strands x 8 hours = 3,600 watts x 35 nights = 126,000 watts = 126 kwH x 10 cents Per Kwh = $12.60 to burn the L.E.D. holiday lights for the season.)

The most energy efficient incandescent strands now use 19 watts versus what you may have on hand that use 40 watts. (19 x 50 x 8 = 7,600 watts x 35 nights = 266,000 watts = 266 kwh x 10 cents = $26.60 to burn the incandescent holiday lights for the season.)

Based on that without any utility incentives your payback period would be about 50 years.  Not so great. But, let’s look at acquisition costs. (50 strands of L.E.D. at $24.00 = $1,200  vs. 50 strands of incandescent at $4.00 = $200.)

But if the incandescent is rated at 5,000 hours and the L.E.D. at 50,000 hours you will have to replace the incandescent 10 times for every time you replace the L.E.D. strand. Total life acquistion cost is $2,000 for the incandescent vs. $1,200 for the L.E.D.

Environmental Benefits

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if all conventional incandescent Christmas lights in the U.S. were replaced with L.E.D. lights, annual energy savings would total 2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) – enough to power 200,000 homes for a year.

If all Long Island, New Yorkers, converted to L.E.D. holiday lights, the Neighborhood Network estimates that approximately 108,744,000 kWh would be saved. This is equivalent to avoiding over 160,000 barrels of oil that would not need to be burned in local power plants. The result of avoiding this much oil consumption would be an environmental benefit of a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 68,950 tons, which is equal to eliminating the global warming, greenhouse gases from approximately 15,000 passenger cars taken off the roads for a year.
Source –

Marketing and PR Benefits

If you are the first hotel in your city, county or state, you could host a community relations/public relations event focused on children and/or child-oriented charities to kick off the holiday shopping season with an L.E.D. tree lighting event (think Rockefeller Center). Better yet, dream big and add some environmentally oriented holiday arts and crafts to the party.

What do I do with the old lighting?

Cut off the plug on the old incandescent holiday lights so that they won’t be reused by someone else and use the strand in a creative and crafty way. How about a “bulbed” wire fence around the compost pile? This would be a good challenge for your green team.

L.E.D. Holiday Lights should feature the following:

* ENERGY STAR rating. This means that the holiday lights pass the EPA’s performance testing for electrical, lifetime, and weathering requirements.

* Holiday lights are UL certified for indoor/outdoor use per UL588-2004 Standard for Seasonal and Holiday Decorative Products.

* Three-year warranty

Product Benefits

* L.E.D.s are very energy efficient, approximately 50 to 90% energy savings as compared to incandescent strands.

* They last up to  20 times longer than traditional incandescent strands. (50,000 hours vs. 2,500 -5,000 hours)

* The L.E.D. color is very brilliant. The L.E.D chips themselves provide the color – not a colored bulb like traditional incandescent strands.

* Lighting displays are much more vivid.

* Incandescent strands are only recommended to have 3 or less strands connected together. L.E.D. strands can have up to 50 connected in a series for 50 count product and at least 30 connected in a series for 100 count product. This is means less circuits, outlets and extension cords are required for installations.

* L.E.D. is very durable. They are excellent for rough service lighting which means they are much more durable than incandescent – no glass bulbs or filaments to break.

* If for some reason one L.E.D. bulb would fail to light, the remaining string will stay lit.

So, from my perspective, if you want to operate a greener hotel you have three choices:

1) Completely replace your existing incandescent holiday lighting wth L.E.D.

2) Replace a portion each year or on an as needed basis.

3) Eliminate holiday lighting and find greener ways to decorate.

P.S. – We usually put the holiday lights up at our house on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Feel free to stop by with some egg nog and if you ask real nice we will let you help. (Which famous author frequently associated with Missouri does this remind you of?) As far as I know, we will be the first in our neighborhood to use L.E.D. holiday lights. Quick – alert the media!

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