Are LED Christmas Lights Better Than Incandescent Lights?

LED vs. Incandescent Christmas Lights

The Spruce / Xiaojie Liu

If you use incandescent Christmas lights for decorating, you might be wondering if it's time to switch to LED lights since most lights sold in stores today are LED. What has led to the big switch to LED lights? Take a look at the benefits, considerations, and any drawbacks to getting LED lights. Here's what you need to know to make an informed decision.

How LED Lights Work

LEDs use light-emitting diodes, rather than a filament to produce light. They are the most popular type of light bulb today for most every use—in homes, businesses, and all around the world, year-round. These bulbs are highly energy-efficient, don't contain mercury, and don't get hot to the touch, so they're a lot safer, too. They are used in the most commonplace light fixtures such as lamps, ceiling lights, or track lighting.

Similarly, LED Christmas lights are more efficient, durable, and longer-lasting than incandescent lights.

Money and Energy Savings

Incandescent bulbs waste energy; a full 90 percent of their energy is released as heat, which is why regular light bulbs get so hot. LEDs are a different story. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, they use up to 75 percent less energy and last 25 times as long.

They also don't require much maintenance. Since LED bulbs don't burn out, they only get dimmer over time; you don't have to fuss with replacing bulbs and fuses. Just plug them in, and they'll light up reliably year after year. Some home improvement stores offer trade-in programs where you can turn in your old Christmas lights for a discount on new, energy-efficient sets.

Benefits of LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas lights are safe to use indoors for your Christmas tree, wreaths, and garlands. They won't send your holiday electric bills sky high, even if you tend to go a bit crazy with the Christmas lights.

Toss your lights in a box after Christmas and pull them out again next year. The bulbs are plastic, so you don't have to spend much time wrapping them to prevent breakage. Plus, LED Christmas lights come in all styles, sizes, and colors; there's truly something for everyone. You can even find snowflake-shaped lights, rope lights, and net lights.

LED lights continue to improve; the first generation LED Christmas lights couldn't match the pure white light of incandescent Christmas lights. The light was much bluer, and that was a turn-off for many people. However, LED Christmas lights are now available in bright and soft options. Choose cool white bulbs if you prefer the blue tone or warm white bulbs if you prefer more of a golden tone.

To summarize, the benefits of LED Christmas lights include:

  • Durable and safe to the touch
  • Energy-efficient; cheaper electric bill than incandescents
  • Come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes
Christmas LED string lights
The Spruce 


LED lights typically have a higher initial cost when purchasing them compared to traditional bulbs. However, you will offset that cost over time with lower energy bills and don't need to be replaced as often. Most retailers have displays that allow you to try out the bulbs, and some may even have entire trees or displays decorated with them. Take a trip to the store to look at the technology first-hand to decide if LEDs are suitable for you.

Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights

First, plug in the entire strand and make sure it's fully operational. Then, start at the highest point of your home where you want to hang lights and move down from there. If attaching to shingles or shutter, use all-purpose light clips, and point all the lights in the same direction. If you're attaching to railings, deck clips will work. Plug lights into an outdoor timer, preferably one that automatically turns on when it gets dark out.

Other Considerations

LED Christmas lights can seem harsh or "too cool" in color for some people. Although advances have been made, some believe the bluish-white light of LED lights can't compare with the soft yellow glow of traditional incandescent lights.

Another interesting fact about LEDs, actually all light bulbs of all types, is that all light bulbs using AC power (alternating current) flicker. All electric companies in the U.S. use AC power. The flickering from the alternating current is so fast that it's practically invisible to the naked eye. When lightbulbs noticeably flicker, we know there is a problem with that bulb or connection. Some people say that LEDs can cause headaches and nausea. Although no scientific study has been done to prove it, some scientists think LED flicker rate is the potential cause.

When used outside, the brightness from LED lights is almost always the desired result; it enhances the appeal of an outdoor display.