LED X-Mas lights: Safer, more efficient

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. There's enough holiday "bling" on one house to make even Santa Claus give a hearty "Merry, merry Christmas."

Don and Kim Richards won the 2,000 Christmas Lights Contest in the Santa Clarita Valley with a display of yuletide spirit.

"We get big joy out of seeing people come by and just gawk at our yard and get big smiles on their faces," said Don Richards.

The Richards are back in the yard gearing up to put on yet another Christmas-lights show. Yet this season, like many other residents, they are slowly converting from incandescent lights to light-emitting diodes (LED). The LEDs, they say, save energy, money and are safer to use.

"We're slowly converting over to the LEDs -- less power. Just a very big expense to do it all at once," said Richards. "So a little each year as things break or as we add things, we are going to the more efficient stuff."

Santa Clarita Home Depot Assistant Manager Ray Henry said LEDs are a hot Christmas buy this season. "We are just running out of those on a daily basis," said Henry. "We keep bringing more and more and more."

You can power 87 LED bulbs at the same cost as powering one of the incandescent bulbs.

And when you're using as many lights as Don Richards, every penny counts.

"Probably close to 100,000 lights or more if you counted individual lights. It seems like a lot but when you start counting strings of 150 here, 200 there, it adds up," said Richards.

"The LEDs save you on energy, but the cost of the light itself, the initial cost, is a lot more than your traditional Christmas lights, so you've got to weigh balance of what you think is going to be more beneficial," said decorator Darrell Lee.

Darrell Lee hangs Christmas lights for customers for a living. He said in terms of safety, LEDs aren't really much better than the others.

"LEDs supposedly pull less power, but as far as the safety factor, that's really not an issue," said Lee. "What you need to worry about is your older-style C-9 bulbs that grandpa used to have, that get really, really hot."

The Richards house is not nearly done yet, but it is starting to look a lot like Christmas.

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