Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will LEDs save us?

The Holiday Season is upon us and lights will glitter all over the land to celebrate the holidays. Christmas Trees and Hanukah Menorahs are symbols that have lights for decoration. The story of Hanukah is about the miracle of the lamp oil in the temple in Jerusalem lasting for eight days instead of the expected one day. This meant that the lamp increased its efficiency eight fold. Well we too have new lamp technology that is similarly more efficient than the old incandescent bulbs that adorned our Christmas Trees or our homes. This wonderful technology is that of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

I believe I have written previously that LEDs use one tenth the energy of incandescent light bulbs and are long lived and can operate for as long as twelve years. Perhaps we are also witnessing a miracle now that we have replaced the old and inefficient strings of red, green, white or blue incandescent holiday lights. We also will not have to bother with searching which bulb has blown and needs replacement so that the whole string of lights shines once more. The Tiburon Fire Department can also rest easier as LED's do not burn hot and are not a fire hazard.

The National Christmas Tree in Washington DC as well as the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City are lit with LEDs. The tree at the Rockefeller center this year is a seventy two foot Norway Spruce. It will be decorated with 30,000 LED lights that are connected with just over five miles of wire. These lights will consume 1,297 kilowatt hours of electricity each night the tree is lit. Using LEDs saved 2,223 kilowatt hours each night compared with the old string of lights that were replaced. This amount of energy saved each night will power the average Tiburon home for two months. Additionally, the brightness (lumens) of the string of LED lights is also three times as bright as the replaced lights.

It would be interesting to find out if one of our spy satellites is capable of photographing this tree from outer space with the resolution of being able to see the individual lights. Sorry even the Green Machine does not have the answer to this as it is classified.What does one do with a seventy two foot Christmas Tree after the Holiday Season has passed and it is time to pay the bills? The folks at Rockefeller Center will have it recycled for use as smaller toys for the animals in the Brox Zoo as well as having part of it mulched for hiking trails in and around New York City.

Many people ask me if they should use a live tree or a plastic tree for their Christmas Tree at home. Over the whole lifecycle of a decade the plastic tree has a lower carbon footprint than buying a live tree each year. The largest contribution to the carbon footprint over the decade is from the gasoline used to drive the SUV or Station Wagon to and from the tree lot or the tree farm if you fell your own tree. Many folks also like to light their tree until February or March. In this case plastic trees have far lower danger of catching alight. Form a green point of view whether you choose plastic or living trees, please use LED lights to decorate the tree. Of course the colors of the lights must be varied as green lights will be camouflaged by the tree. Happy Green Holidays to all of you.


  1. Ok, Lindsay, LEDs certainly are a compromise. But I don't understand why can't we break with this tradition to have to light-up the creation during this time of year? 'Tis the season to practice conservation says me. What's wrong with unplugging? We gotta start sometime doncha think? In Northampton, UK no Xmessy lighting displays.
    "The council may be criticised for cutting back on Christmas lights but the fact is they cost us money to put up, money for the electricity all the time that they're on, and they add to our carbon footprint. We've got to start cutting back."

  2. yeah let there be darkness. Northampton does not need lights it needs rebuilding. just kidding never been there. perhas the way to celebrate is to have all the prisoners in the world get on stationary bikes that have generator connected to them and use this electricty to power the holiday lights. prisoners need excercise and we need electricty

  3. I ain't buyin' your explanation, Anonymous.

    Ja, right, enjoy it while we can, hah? But I think it can be enjoyed w/o lighting up the entire creation. We're energy whores--crap, seriously what did people do before electricity? As I recall, they also enjoyed the carnal pomp and jollity prior to the advent of electricity. We are short-sighted, forgetful critters. *Sigh* Itiswhatitis...

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