Last updated on April 29th, 2024 at 05:32 pm

How to Shine Brilliantly with Eco-Friendly Christmas Lights

One of the first signs the holidays have arrived are the twinkling of lights popping up on houses and businesses throughout town.

A 2008 study from the US Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that holiday lights accounted for 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumption every year in the United States. This amounts to only 0.2% of our total electricity usage, but that small fraction is enough to run 14 million refrigerators. And this number is more than the national electricity consumption of a single developing country, such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, or Cambodia.

How can we decrease our own holiday energy consumption? Are there eco-friendly Christmas lights? I’m glad you asked.

Pick LED Christmas lights

Like any regular LED bulb, strands of Christmas lights with these bulbs use far less energy than the old-school incandescent bulbs. 80-90% less energy, in fact. This allows more strands of lights to be strung together without overloading a circuit. The energy-saving quality of LEDs saves both on emissions as well as on your January electric bill.

In addition, LED bulbs last considerably longer than incandescent, up to 25-30 times longer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now. The average life of an LED bulb is around 50,000 hours, while incandescents go dark after about 3,000 hours. In addition, if an single light goes out on an LED strand, it will not affect the rest, eliminating the maddening task of finding which bulb has gone out when none of them will turn on. Not having to replace lights frequently is of course another way LEDs save you money, as well as decreasing waste.

Have you ever noticed how hot an incandescent bulb can get? That’s because 90% of the energy released by these types of bulbs is in the form of heat. LED bulbs create far less heat so they do not get hot to the touch, and are therefore a safer option for your home. Their lenses are made of epoxy lenses as opposed to glass, making them less likely to shatter.

More energy Christmas light features

There are several other eco-friendly Christmas light features and types to consider.

Solar powered

In my experience, solar powered Christmas lights are tricky in colder climates, like Utah. I think they are probably a great option for warmer areas, but for me it is tricky to make sure the solar panel gets enough access to light because of darker days or being buried by snow, or both.

Smart timer

Some fancy holiday lights include a smart timer that can be controlled with a phone app. There is a wide price range on options. We’ve never used these type of lights so I can’t attest to their use, but we do have a few indoor Philips Hue bulbs that we like, and the company has their Festivia line of smart outdoor lights.

Another option is to buy a plug timer to use for your existing lights. I’ve had these BN-LINK timers for several years and have been happy with them.


Make sure you use rechargeable batteries to reduce waste from single-use alkaline batteries. Battery-operated Christmas lights do need frequent changing, at least with these LED fairy lights I have.

Additional tips for eco-friendly Christmas lights

Consider turning your lights off when you are away. As much as you want to add to the holiday ambiance, it doesn’t make as much sense when you’re not around to appreciate them.

Turn off your lights when you go to bed. Again, nobody is enjoying them when they’re studying the backs of their eyelids. No, I’m not going to be a total curmudgeon and say don’t leave them on overnight on Christmas Eve, because it’s kind of a must when you have kids, although I think Santa will still find our houses either way.

Any type of outdoor lighting can create light pollution, and Christmas lights are no exception. Besides making it harder to see the stars in night sky, these light sources have been shown to cause harm to wildlife. They can cause disorientation as well as disrupt animal’s circadian rhythms and natural behaviors, such as migration or hunting. Some research shows that colored lights are less attractive to wildlife and may not have as much of a negative of an effect on them as white lights.

Final Thoughts on Eco-Friendly Christmas Lights

If you wish, you can stray from this holiday tradition altogether and simply decorate your yard with other eco-friendly decor. But for the Clark Griswolds of the world, there are numerous simple things you can do to create a merry and and bright—and green—holiday season.

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