Traditional Christmas lights use incandescent light bulbs and waste most of the electricity in the form of heat. This energy waste is evident by the deep snow wells around lights where the bulbs have melted the snow. These strings of lights put a strain on the electrical grid and cause energy demand to reach seasonal highs. As an alternative, solar power Christmas lights are just as decorative but they use the clean, non-polluting energy from the sun.
Christmas can be made to be a "green" holiday with solar energy. Saving electricity during the long nights helps to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and pollutants being generated. An outdoor Christmas display using traditional lights can use more than 1 kiloWatt of power per night. Across a city, that's a lot of extra power demand and a lot of extra pollution!
Solar power Christmas lights use Light Emitting Diodes (LED) as bulbs which may not as bright as traditional Christmas bulbs, but provide the same festive and decorative effect. They work the same way as solar garden lights and have a solar cell, a battery, a light sensor and a string of LED bulbs. The light that is produced is bright and clear, and lights come in a variety of colors.
The amount of energy needed to power these LEDs require just a few hours of sunlight to recharge a battery. During the day, the light sensor automatically turns off the LEDs and allows the solar panel to re-charge the batteries.
As the winter sun sets, the LEDs turn on and the battery supplies the stored energy to the bulbs. Depending on the amount of sunlight that was converted and stored in the battery, the lights can stay on for up to 8 hours, well into the night. If the sky is overcast during the day, the battery will only be partially recharged and the lights won't stay on as long.
Unlike solar garden lights, Christmas lights integrated with a solar cell are relatively new products. They come in a variety of shapes, colors and lengths. The long-lasting bulbs are permanently attached to the string and if one were to blow, the rest would continue to shine. A few products have replaceable LED bulbs.
Look for a unit where the solar panel can be place at a distance from the sting in an open area clear of obstructions and shadows. The solar cells need as much exposure as possible to the limited amount of winter sunlight available. Also, place the unit where it is easily accessible in order to clear away snow that may have accumulated on the panel.
Solar power Christmas lights are becoming much more commonplace and will likely become just as popular as solar power garden lights. They are an efficient, long-lasting and environmentally-friendly alternative to wasteful traditional lights. Even though the Christmas season is synonymous with snow and ice, these lights will help make the holidays greener.