As much as things have changed in the lightbulb aisle, you can still buy strings of Christmas lights made with incandescent bulbs. But they’re being phased out to make room for more LED holiday lights, according to the American Lighting Association. LEDs do have their bright spots. Here’s a look at both the pros and cons of LED holiday lights.

Advantages
Consumer Reports hasn’t tested Christmas lights lately, but our recent tests of LEDs and CFLs found that Energy Star-qualified bulbs meet high standards for brightness, energy use, and more. Holiday light strings carrying the Energy Star offer these advantages over strands of incandescent lights:

• Use 75 percent less energy.
• Can last up to 10 times longer.
• Remain cool to the touch, lowering the risk of a fire.
• Are more durable and shock resistant since there are no filaments or glass.
• Come with a three year warranty.

Unlike incandescents, LEDs do not burn out—they dim over time. While incandescent bulbs are usually rated for 3,000 hours (that's how long they're expected to last), LEDs are rated for 25,000 to 50,000 and even up to 100,000 hours. 

Energy Star doesn’t break down how much money you’ll save, but Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association, calculates that a string of 50 mini-LED holiday lights saves just 46 cents in electricity, compared to a string of mini-incandescents, when used seven hours a day for the month of December. You'll save energy by using LEDs, but the payback time could take many years—it depends on how much you pay for the lights and electricity. Keep in mind that bigger bulbs, such as C9 or C7, use more energy than the minis do. "Changing from the traditional C7 bulbs to the mini type reduces operating costs by over 90 percent, but the LED bulbs increase the reduction to 98 percent," says McGowan. For the geek in all of us, check out "How Holiday Lights Work," from the Department of Energy.

Disadvantages
• Cost more upfront.
• Some cast an unappealing bluish white light or flicker.


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What's New in LED Lights

When you're shopping, take the time to look at displays of lit holiday lights, or ask to see them illuminated to be sure you get the light color you want. And before you shop, search for utility rebates

Light Shows
More apps are available that let you change light colors and create the must-see house of the neighborhood. McGowan says here’s what else you’ll see in stores and around town:

Miniature Light Strings
Dew Drop lights are tiny and have a nearly invisible but flexible light string that’s stiff enough so the lights stay in place. When placed inside glass display containers, the Dew Drops look as if they’re floating. Use them on plants or floral centerpieces, Dew Drops come in various colors and are available in both plug-in and battery-operated options, which are ideal for lighting handrails.

Tree Wrapping
To save time putting lights up and taking them down, without the help of a lift or cherry picker, closely wrap just the trunk and the first couple of feet of a deciduous tree—up into the main branches. McGowan suggests using strings of lights with six inches or less between bulbs, and then wrapping the trunk and limbs with no more than three inches between the layers of wrapped wiring.

Shopping for LEDs?
Then first look at our lightbulb Ratings. We’ve tested dozens of CFLs and LEDs—for both inside and outside—and found some stark differences in brightness.