Energy-saving LED lights catching on during holidays

For years, holiday enthusiasts have turned to strings of traditional, clunky incandescent bulbs to decorate homes and trees during Christmas.

Today Sacramento stores report a major shift to light emitting diodes – LED lighting. Most customers, they say, have opted for the brighter, more energy-efficient alternatives.

"They fly off the hook," said Eric Ciraulo, a manager at the Ace Hardware store in midtown Sacramento.

One of the region's biggest displays of LED lighting is on the Christmas tree at the state Capitol.

Regular bulbs have a filament inside that emits light when heated, a process that can waste a significant amount of energy in the form of heat.

LED lights, which have been available for years but have only recently became popular, use what's called a semiconductor diode, which emits light when an electric current runs through it.

Strands of LED lights plug in like traditional lighting, but they stay cooler as they use most of their energy to create light.

Though the lights are generally more expensive than traditional incandescent varieties, potential cost savings over time have enticed more consumers.

"You can see the savings from them are just substantial," said Bob Aldrich, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission.

During a typical holiday season's use – estimated at 600 lights on for six hours a day for about a month – incandescent bulbs will cost almost $65, compared with just over a dollar for LEDs.

To read the complete column, visit The Sacramento Bee.