Try using LED lights this holiday season Angie Howard

It's a ritual we started with our very first Christmas together and look forward to every year - the annual Thanksgiving night viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. My husband and I (now with little ones in tow) go purchase our favorite "movie night snacks" the day before, put on our warm and fuzzy pajamas after the yearly Thanksgiving Dinner at Cracker Barrel (yes, I did just write that), and pile on the couch together beneath a big blanket and the warm glow of our own adaptation of a Chevy Chase masterpiece illuminating our roofline.

Leading up to this heartwarming holiday tradition, my husband spends days scaling the roof like Spiderman (minus the Spandex suit) with strings of lights as his web, all the while as I watch with squinted eyes and offer encouragement, spiced with the occasional directive to "increase your life insurance policy before Christmas lights go up next year."

Along with the month-long nightly display of Howard family Holiday joy, and the big gleaming smile my proud husband wears as his timers kick-on each night to illuminate the neighborhood, comes an equally remarkable "gift" we receive in the mail from our local utility company a few weeks after the first bulb glows. Let's just say the energy used by a string of 25 light bulbs can add up to a pretty substantial penny when you have 30 - 40 strands piggy-backed to each other burning brightly for 5 hours a night.

Thankfully for us, and all of you whose families also partake in National Lampoon's ritual, a new environmentally-friendly way to light up your holiday home without burning a hole in your wallet is available as close by as the seasonal section of your local department store.

LED, light emitting diode, holiday lights have many advantages over traditional incandescent holiday lighting. Here are just a few:
Efficiency - LEDs save up to 98% of the electricity that is needed to power conventional painted or ceramic coated bulbs.

Environmentally Friendly - low electricity use equals less carbon emissions, and manufacturing LEDs is more environmentally friendly as well. Electron movement in semiconductor chips is what causes illumination since LEDs do not have a filament like incandescent bulbs.

Practicality - The long life-span of LED lighting means that replacing bulbs will be rare, thereby reducing maintenance.

Safe - LEDs are cool to the touch because they generate much less heat when operated and they are less likely to overload a circuit.

Durability - Because the LED is electronic, its lifetime is up to 10 years. Additionally, LEDs are encased in resilient plastic rather than the incandescent lighting encasement of fragile glass.
If you wonder what LED lighting looks like and how effective it is in a holiday light display, consider these two bright examples of LED illumination: Walt Disney World's Cinderella's Castle, wired with over 200,000 LEDs producing a savings of thousands of dollars, and the Times Square ball that descends every year to usher in the New Year that is fully illuminated with LED lighting and burns twice as brightly as the old ball using about half the energy.

This will be the first Christmas season that we will spend in our new home, with a brand-new roof-line for my Yuletide Spiderman to "web-up." I have plans to surprise him the week or so before Thanksgiving and purchase a gift card to the local home improvement store earmarked for replacing our holiday lights with LED string lights, and I will eagerly anticipate Santa sending our home some substantial utility savings with them!

So, let's go back to our modern-day patriarch of holiday illumination, Clark Griswold. What would he have saved if he lit his house with energy-efficient C9 LED bulbs? Well, those 25,000 bulbs changed from incandescent to LED would drop Clark's bill from an estimated $2,400 to around $50. I don't know about you, but in our house that savings could buy a few Christmas presentsâ¦or go toward increasing that life insurance policy before the lights go up next year.