LED vs. Incandescent Christmas Lights

Christmas lightsWhen deciding how to decorate your home for Christmas this year, you might not put much thought into what type of Christmas lights to use. There are actually two types of lights most commonly used today: incandescent lights and LED (light emitting diode) lights. Regardless of which type you choose, the most important features are energy efficiency, up-front cost, brightness and reliability. Here is how each type of light rates in these categories.

Incandescent Lights

Until recently, incandescent lights were the most popular type of Christmas lights. Unfortunately, they’re not very energy-efficient; they convert only five percent of their energy into visible light. The rest of the energy produces heat. On the one hand, incandescent lights are usually the cheapest type of Christmas lights available, which means you spend less money up front. However, since they use so much energy, they cost more to operate in the long run.

Incandescent lights produce a bright white light. The color comes from the colored glass encasements. Different colored encasements can create vivid, bold colors, and that’s what has made this type of light so popular for so many years. Unfortunately, the colored glass will sometimes flake or fade after repeated use. This is especially true if you use the lights outdoors.

LED Lights

LED lights are extremely energy-efficient; in fact, they generally use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. The U.S. Department of Energy claims that LEDs last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Different types of LED Christmas lights generate their colors differently. Some LEDs produce their color themselves and don’t rely on colored glass encasements to do the job. Some LED lights are white and have colored encasements just like incandescent lights.

Although LED Christmas lights have several significant advantages, they are significantly more expensive compared to incandescent lights. LEDs can cost anywhere from two to six times as much as incandescent bulbs. Since LEDs are increasing in popularity, however, their cost is beginning to drop. When you consider the fact that they use much less energy, though, they’ll cost less to operate than incandescent bulbs. This can be a major boon to your electric bill, which (if you’re like most people) tends to skyrocket during the holidays.

LEDs also tend to not be quite as bright as incandescent bulbs. In fact, incandescent lights are generally five to six times brighter than LED lights. However, LED lights tend to be extremely reliable and long-lasting. At the end of the day, which type of Christmas lights you choose depends on your unique situation and your personal preferences.

What are your favorite types of Christmas lights? Tell us in the Comments section below.


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  1. My husband and I recently wanted to replace the lights on our Christmas tree. We bought some of the LED lights and put them on. They looked AWFUL! The light is harsh, and blue-looking and completely overpowered the tree. We thought that perhaps they would look ok with the decorations on it, but it didn't help at all. We immediately took all of the decorations off of the tree and re-packaged the lights and returned them to the store and immediately purchased our incandescent lights. MUCH BETTER! They twinkle, flash and are reflected in our shiny glass ornaments. The LED lights didn't even twinkle or flash. LED lights are NOT for Christmas decorating!

    1. In response to Rollpsych2001

      I totally agree. I would love to use the LEDs, but they look horrible! When someone touts their energy efficiency I wonder how many Christmas lights they put up. For car headlamps and reading lights LEDs are the way to go, but for Christmas I have to go with the old standby of incandescent lights. Oh, I love the twinkle too.

    2. In response to Rollpsych2001

      If you wanted the same type of lighting, you just didn't buy the correct type of LED lights....you should have purchased the 'warm white'. We have mixed the regular mini-lights with some warm white LEDs on one of our trees and you truly can't tell the difference! The LEDs are wonderful, not to mention the colored net lights outside are much more intense light than the old-fashined lighes. Even the neighbors have commented about how they love our bushes.

  2. LED lights are noticeably brighter and more colorful, more energy efficient, and much, much safer to use on a tree and around the home because of their low voltage use.

    1. In response to ElLobo47

      I love LED lights. They look great, last longer and cost of energy is just a fraction of regular lights. WIN WIN!