Many take dim view of new-fangled Christmas lights

December 21, 2009 By SEAN MURPHY , Associated Press Writer
In this photo taken on Dec. 19, 2009, Gary Barksdale's home in Norman, Okla. is decorated with a mix of vintage incandescent bulbs and LED lights for the holidays. While acknowledging LEDs are more durable and use up to one-hundredth the amount of electricity as incandescents, Barksdale grows nostalgic sorting through broken bulbs and overloaded fuses every year. "It's part of the holiday tradition," said Barksdale. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

(AP) -- To Steven Walls, it's beginning to look nothing like Christmas, anywhere he goes.

While more people make the switch to energy-efficient lights for their holiday decorations, Walls this year insisted on decorating with the old-style, torpedo-shaped lights his family has put up for years. But it was no easy feat: To replace the half-dozen or so bulbs that burned out last year, Walls had to visit eight stores before he found any.

"They're not the same. They're weird-looking. They're sized different and have these unusual ripples. If you have those interspersed with your traditional lights, they're going to look dumb," he said.

The old two-inch, 9-watt incandescent bulbs may be the gas guzzlers of holiday lights, but they remain a holiday staple in homes across the country. Many people aren't willing to trade the chubby, colorful halo effect for the softer glow of a light-emitting diode, or . And as retailers increasingly stock the more energy-efficient lights, lovers of the classic lights scramble to find them, fearing they will soon be gone from shelves for good.

While acknowledging LEDs are more durable and use up to one-hundredth the amount of electricity as incandescents, Gary Barksdale grows nostalgic sorting through broken bulbs and overloaded fuses every year.

"It's part of the holiday tradition," said Barksdale, 46, of Norman. Failing to find replacement fuses, he strung a few lights together and ran a tether to his 9-year-old son, Gus. Together they climbed atop the roof of his one-story home. For him, the old lights are part of a holiday tradition.

"We're doing the same thing my pops, my brothers and I did when we were kids," he said.

LED lights are made of plastic, but Barksdale said dropping and shattering a brightly colored glass bulb is just part of the holiday routine.

"When you're finding shards of purple glass in the summer when you mow the grass, you can remember the fun you had at Christmas," he said. "There's a certain nostalgia to having those big glass bulbs that we put up as a kid."

Despite their passionate fan club, incandescent lovers are a dying bunch. Strands of LEDs are more expensive than incandescents, but the LEDs are much cheaper to run. Retailers say the long-term savings may be driving people to stores to make the switch.

John Banta, a project leader for New York-based Consumer Reports, said LEDs provide more benefits than just energy savings.

"They run cooler, so there's less of a chance of a fire hazard," Banta said. "They're much more durable and they did last longer."

Aaron Hassen, a spokesman for Alpharetta, Ga.-based Christmas Lights Etc., one of the nation's largest online retailers of Christmas lights, said a number of large commercial customers, including cities, towns and theme parks, invested in the new technology in recent years, but now he is seeing more consumers making the switch for their homes.

"Sales of LEDs are up more than 200 percent over last year," Hassen said. "Nobody could have predicted in a down economy that they would be investing in a product that costs more right off the shelf."

Even Santa Claus made the switch. The small town of Santa Claus, Ind., this year erected a new tree with LEDs, and the new lights also dot the town's 1.2-mile display around the Lake Rudolph Camp Ground.

But Santa Claus resident Herman Souder - who hangs thousands of the older-style incandescents on his two-story home in the Christmas Lake neighborhood - is staying with the old standby. He tried a strand of LEDs but they didn't provide the same punch, so he took them down. He said he will switch over eventually, when LEDs become brighter, in an effort to save on an electric bill that can include $200 or more for Christmas lights alone.

"The lights were real close together and they weren't very bright," said Souder, 69. "The blue, green and red were OK, but they were really dim, and the gold didn't hardly show up at all."

David Shields of Purcell, Okla., said the old bulbs just look like Christmas. Shields' wife, Karen, said she visited four stores, including two Wal-Marts, Lowes and Home Depot, before finding replacement bulbs at a farm and ranch supply store in nearby Norman.

"My neighbor has the LED lights, and it just looks more like a modern discotheque over there," he said. "I like the vintage look, the old-school look. That's the way everybody's lights used to be growing up."

Explore further: Lighter, cheaper, LED light bulbs are starting to enter the marketplace


Related Stories

LED there be light

June 22, 2009

Q: How many LED engineers does it take to change a light bulb?

Lights out for old 100-watt bulbs in EU next week

August 26, 2009

Old-style 100-watt light bulbs will be banned in Europe's shops from next week in favour of new energy-saving models, but consumers groups on Wednesday gave the move a guarded welcome.

Tiny particles make LED light more pleasing

May 5, 2009

(AP) -- Light-emitting diodes are prime candidates for replacing inefficient incandescent bulbs, but have a few things working against them. They can provide a pleasing warm light or they can be energy-efficient, but they ...

Recommended for you

Volvo to supply Uber with self-driving cars (Update)

November 20, 2017

Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars said Monday it has signed an agreement to supply "tens of thousands" of self-driving cars to Uber, as the ride-sharing company battles a number of different controversies.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Dec 21, 2009
This is rediculous. There is little to no advantage to the old style; the only advantage pointed out here is nostalgia for have to find and change 10 bulbs out of a 1000. Well, have fun buddy. As for my family, this is a tradition I am happy to break.
not rated yet Dec 21, 2009
While I understand the nostalgia effect, there's absolutely nothing that would make me want to hunt for burned out bulbs, replace fuses, easily break bulbs, or step on shards of glass in my yard all year round. Don't worry though Mr. Barksdale, you'll still get to experience the joy of disentangling 30 separate strands from themselves and each other for an entire day.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2009
I have the most "Green" solution... I put up no lights at all. Been doing it for years now. That's my tradition. Anyone ever notice that "The Grinch" is green?
Dec 21, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2009
LED lights are made of plastic, but Barksdale said dropping and shattering a brightly colored glass bulb is just part of the holiday routine.

Had to laugh - this sounds like a line straight out of an article on The Onion.

not rated yet Dec 21, 2009
Ah...never underestimate the craving for the selfobject function of nostalgia! None of you technologically PC nay-sayers ever have a soft spot for a vintage automobile?!? I rest my case...
not rated yet Dec 21, 2009
Gee, how come nobody yearns for that truly nostalgic feeling of Christmas, and by that I mean the times *before* Edison's bright idea?
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
I too looked at the URL of this piece to see if it was an Onion article! I like LED's so much I use them around the top of my living room because my wife adores them. The little pointy one, 15' string, 40 lights, five colors red blue green gold orange. Looks like a tiki bar, which is omg kule.
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
Even I, a true proponent of LED lighting, has to admit that they just aren't bright enough for outdoor usage.
If you want to cut down on the amount of power you consume on x-mas lights, try sticking a big old schottky diode in series with each string, and alternate the polarities. Sure the lights will be a tad dimmer, but they will still be brighter than leds, and two oppositely-polarized strings will draw the same power as one. (a 50% savings!)
Merry Christmas :)
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
has anyone else noticed the odd...would it be hertz? of the led's. there's something about the refresh rate or whatever that I find unattractive and slightly disorienting. Yes, they're more efficient and we might not have a planet soon, but I still don't like them. And tend to like stuff like that!
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
As with anything else it comes down to what you, the individual, can afford in combination with your personal sense of aesthetics and fun. I like incandescants for outside and led's for inside personally, but to each their own!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.