Holiday lighting technology over the years

Patrick Mathwig

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Patrick Mathwig, Dakota Electric Association Energy Services Representative

The tradition of stringing electric lights during the holidays may have started in America, but it is now a global phenomenon used for all kinds of winter festivities. The evolution of holiday lights parallels that of the light bulb, with some remarkably lavish variations. But regardless of how they look, one thing is certain — they are a much better option than sticking a candle in a tree.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Americans started to turn to incandescent light bulbs to light up their homes for the holidays. They provided more ornate options for displays, in terms of colors and styles, and greatly decreased the number of homes destroyed by candle-initiated fires. And so, incandescent bulbs slowly began to supplement candles as the new go-to source for decorative holiday lighting.

However, it was not a perfect solution. The bulbs could get quite hot, and sparks from malfunctioning strings could light up dry trees.

Now, LEDs are gradually replacing incandescent light bulbs. Although LED technology has been around for decades, it has only moved into the holiday lighting field in the past 15 years. While incandescent bulbs produce light by running an electrical current through a filament and setting it aglow, LEDs generate light by using electricity to energize light-emitting diodes.

The differences in technology between incandescent and LED bulbs also greatly impact the amount of energy each requires. The technique of zapping a filament with electricity is an inefficient method of generating light. The LED method of using electricity to excite diodes is extremely energy efficient. In fact, LEDs use up to 90% less energy than comparable incandescent light bulbs. Plus, they remain cool to the touch, even after they have been on for hours.

After the holidays, a great New Year’s resolution is to make your entire home more energy efficient. Start by installing LEDs in the fixtures you use the most. To help you keep that resolution, give us a call at 651-463-6243 or email [email protected].