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LED Christmas Lights Are Best. Here’s Why.

When it comes to holiday lights, there can be only one choice.

Whether you’re hanging one strand around the front door or plastering the outside of your house with 100 strands, there’s nothing like a holiday light display to get you feeling festive this time of year. But let’s face it, not all lights are created equal.

Hanging Christmas lights used to require a serious time commitment for checking individual bulbs, untangling light strands and figuring out which circuits can accommodate which lights. Oh, and let’s not forget the surprise of opening your electric bill after a month of running thousands of incandescent lights.

Fortunately, holiday decorating has become much easier with LED Christmas lights. They’re a vastly superior choice. And while there’s some truth to the idea the best lights are the ones you already have, you will definitely not regret making the switch to LED lights, when possible.

What Are LED Lights and How Do They Work?

LEDs use light-emitting diodes (hence the acronym) to make light, rather than burning a filament like incandescent bulbs. An electric current passes through a microchip that causes the diode to light up. The heat produced is redirected into a heat sink to boost performance.

The lifespan of LED lights is based on a calculation of when the lights will experience a 30 percent decrease in output, according to Energy Star. This is because LED lights don’t burn out like incandescent bulbs; they just slowly fade.

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Cost of running LED lightspogonici/Shutterstock

LED Lights Cost Less to Use

Though they’re more expensive to purchase, LED Christmas lights will save you money over the long haul. LED lights use as much as 90 percent less energy than incandescent strands.

According to a 2017 study from the Washington Post, a single strand of 25 C9 incandescent bulbs β€” the large ones β€” use 175 watts of electricity over a 45-day span, operating 12 hours a day. The cost: $15.12. A similar strand of C9 LEDs used 2.4 watts over the same period, at a cost of just 21 cents, per the same study. Today’s costs will likely be higher, but you get the idea.

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Sq Cewuidy Led Christmas Lights Charging Cable Ecomm Amazon.comvia merchant

LED Lights Last Longer

You’ll get a lot of years out of your LED Christmas lights. LED bulbs last 25 percent longer than incandescents, according to the U.S. Department of Energy β€” up to 50,000 hours.

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LED lights in the snowJo Ann Snover/Shutterstock

LED Lights Work Better in Colder Weather

Don’t worry about the next Arctic blast snuffing out your holiday light display. LED lights will still turn on and stay on when the mercury drops. They’ve even more efficient in lower temperatures.

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hands holding broken Christmas lightsKinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

LED Lights Are More Durable

LED Christmas lights get high marks for durability. Another advantage: Plastic bulbs in LED lights don’t break as easily as glass ones. So you can store them worry-free and spend more time decorating instead of testing and fixing Christmas lights.

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LED light safetyTierneyMJ/Shutterstock

LED Lights Are Cool to the Touch

If you’re concerned about safety around holiday decorations, LEDs are a good choice because they produce next to no heat. That means no burned digits when you or your kids touch them. A heat sink built into the lights displaces any heat they produce.

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Large Bulb Outdoor Christmas Lightsvia amazon.com

LED Lights Come in All Colors, Shapes and Sizes

It used to be all LED lights had a bluish tinge. That was especially noticeable with holiday lights, because the white lights didn’t look all that white. But that’s changed. You can get bright and soft versions of the light in all different colors.

LED lights also come in all shapes and sizes. It’s easy to think the strands will look like the LED light strips you put under the kitchen cabinets. While you can certainly get those kind of lights for your decorations, they’re available in all shapes and sizes now.

Just browse the aisle at the home center and you’ll notice LED rope lights, icicles, snowflakes, the big C9 style bulbs and lots more. The only limit is your imagination.

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recycling binGino Santa Maria/Shutterstock

LED Lights Can Be Recycled

You’re encouraged to recycle LED lights because they contain precious metals that can be reused. They also don’t have hazardous chemicals like fluorescents or other types of lights, making them easier to recycle.

It won’t happen often give their long lifespans, but when it’s time to recycle Christmas lights, check with your local curbside provider to see if they accept them. If not, don’t worry. Some communities offer other recycling services that will take them. And many home stores like Lowe’s, The Home Depot or IKEA will collect them for recycling. Check with the store nearest you to see if it offers that service.

Incandescent bulbs are hard to recycle because it’s difficult to separate the metal and glass parts, and it’s harder to find services that will accept them.

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The Drawback of LED Lights

The biggest knock against LED holiday lights is that they cost more than a string of their incandescent counterparts. However, because they last longer and use way less energy, it won’t take long to recoup the additional cost of buying a new strand.

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan Van Bibber is a deputy editor at Family Handyman. He's been DIY'ing since he was a kid. A resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he is especially proud of his aptitude with a swamp cooler, repairing stucco and engineering makeshift shade. As a career journalist, Ryan covered the NFL for more than a decade, worked as a senior editor at Outside as well as writing and editing buying guides and product reviews for several national publications. When he’s not working, you can find him on the trails with his family and two very good dogs.