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We do some lights on the outside of our house, in the bushes and around a big tree in the front yard.  We have been interested in converting to LED lights, and I decided to look and see if this could be the year.

I am a little concerned with everything that I found.

While we ended up getting lights, there still seems to be a lot of barriers to get lights into peoples hands to realize the energy savings that everybody talks about.

Here are some issues I see with LED lights:

  • Availability – At almost every store I went to, I saw shelf after shelf of ‘regular' lights, but very little space dedicated to LED lights.  I saw signs at a few stores promoting the virtues of LED lights and how they could lead to 80% savings over traditional lights.  Yet, in most cases, regular lines of LED bulbs were sold out.  This is the third year I've gone on a quest for LED bulbs and I was not impressed with their availability at all.
  • Price – When there were LED lines available, they were very expensive.  When stores do offer them at discounts, you can go right back to the availability discussion because they're usually gone the first day.  So, your choice becomes to look for the lines at $7, which are always gone, or pay $19 for the same line.  I think it would take a lot longer to make that extra $12 back in energy savings, so people just forget it.
  • Look – This is the first year I've seen white lights that aren't those awful blue shade.  It looks like technology is finally getting there to offer traditional white lights that can save money.  Of course, their limited availability meant that they were priced even higher than regular lines.  I think it will be another two or three years before you actually see these.

We ended up getting lucky and getting some multi-colored lines for our house, using a $3 trade in offer from Home Depot, where they accepted old lines and gave you a $3 credit towards and LED line of lights.

Of course, I had to get there at 9:20 on a Saturday morning.  I bought what I wanted and thought about going back to get some more…but by 10am, they were of course gone.

All in all, I'm impressed with the technology but I'm not impressed with the availability of the consumer to get that technology.  It seems that price and availability have not yet caught up to allow consumers en masses to replace their lines.  The sad part is that the barriers seem to be in place so that consumers will continue to buy regular lines of lights instead.

So, when you see all the advertising about how much money you can save with LED Christmas lights this year, I wouldn't get your hopes up too much.