The Evolution of Christmas Lights – From Incandescent to LED

NOMA Bubble Lites – Do you remember these on your Grandma’s tree?

Decorating with lights has been in vogue from the beginning of the light bulb.  Even Thomas Edison decorated his lab with a strand of bulbs in 1880.  The first Christmas lights were fashioned by Edison’s business partner, Edward H. Johnson, when he took a strand of red, white and blue lights and dangled them around his Christmas tree.

The first breakthrough in popular holiday lighting was in 1903 when GE made Christmas lighting kits affordable.  Until that time, lighting a Christmas tree with lights required a bit of electrical savvy and a budget that would equal $2,000 US in today’s money.  Albert Sadacca further popularized Christmas lighting with his company NOMA Electric Company in 1925. NOMA licensed its name to 15 smaller firms to sell their lights.  NOMA was responsible for innovations like fused safety plugs (1951), all-rubber cords (1940), and Bubble Lites (1946).

While Noma went bankrupt in 1965, Christmas light technology remained relatively static until just recently with the introduction of LEDs. New LED strings use 80% less electricity while burning much cooler. LEDs also offer programmability and virtually unlimited color and design capabilities.  Just think what the Griswolds from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation could do with LEDs!

Here’s a look at some of the more colorful and innovative holiday displays around the world in 2012.

Rockefeller Center, New York, NY — The 80 foot tall Christmas tree features 45,000 LEDs

Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, New York, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niagara Falls, NY & Canada– The three waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls) as well as 120 additional displays are lit up with more than 3 million lights for the holidays.

Lighting up Niagara Falls, Christmas 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Champs-Élysées, Paris – One of Paris’ most famous thoroughfares is lit up with LEDs along 2 kilometers.

Holidays 2012 along the Champs-Élysées, Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo – ZooLights, the zoo’s18th annual winter festival, features two million LED lights.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Festival, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights– While the family Christmas light display started at a modest 1000 lights, the Osborne’s home display in Arkansas grew so large that the family shares their magic with Disney every year.  Their display moved to Disney World in 1995 residing on the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park and now features more than 5 million LED lights set to music.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney World in Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Fact

In 2011, the National Retail Federation and BIG Research expected Americans to spend more than $6 billion on Christmas decorations, up more than 8% from last year and the most spent over the seven years the group began tracking this type of spending.

Further Reading

AP, HOLIDAY EVENTS: TREES, LIGHTING DISPLAYS AND MORE, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/holiday-events-trees-lighting-displays-and-more

The Telegraph, Champs Elysees lights up with Christmas sparkle, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8911607/Champs-Elysees-lights-up-with-Christmas-sparkle.html

Huffington Post, Holiday Displays Around The World Light Up Global Landmarks,  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/28/holiday-displays-around-the-world_n_2200170.html

Solid State Technology, (US) National Christmas Tree, tested by storm, awaits lighting, http://www.electroiq.com/leds/2012/12/05/national-christmas-tree-tested-by-storm-awaits-lighting.html?cmpid=EnlLedDecember122012

 

Do You LED? – NECA, IBEW and DOE Education Efforts on LED Lighting

Electrical contractors are often on the front lines in helping their customers select electrical fixtures for their homes and businesses.  Their customers look to them for advice and experience when making important decisions about the lighting fixtures from lighting aesthetics and placement to maintenance and energy costs over the fixture’s lifetime.

The National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have a new series of videos on their ElectricTV.net web site specifically developed to help electrical contractors get ready for the opportunities and challenges of LED lighting. The first video is a great introduction to LED technology and its benefits.  The US Department of Energy is using the video series to help explain LED lighting to consumers on their website too.

Part 1 of the three part series introduces LEDs and their potential benefits. The segment features an interview with DOE Lighting Program Manager, Dr. James Brodrick that explains some of the advantages of LED lighting and where to look for information that can help you learn more.

According to Brodrick, by 2030, LED products will reduce lighting consumption by 46%. That means a savings of $30 billion in savings that would go back to the consumer and business.  LED products bring efficiency, durability, directional light and dimming capabilities.  He does claim that CFLs won’t go away.  According to Brodrick, they’re not quite as efficient as LEDs, but LEDs will become more efficient than CFLs could ever be. Brodrick also points out that we’ve never completely displaced a light source given that candles still have a place.

“At this point in time education is really important,” says Brodrick in the video.  “There are lots of new concepts and the lighting operates differently.  You need to get a hold of information.” He admits that there are some good products and some not so good ones.  The DOE has put together some programs to help contractors and consumers make sense of LED lighting.

The CALiPer program (DOE’s Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program) is like the department’s Good Housekeeping seal. The program supports testing of a wide array of SSL products available for general illumination. DOE allows its test results to be distributed in the public interest for non-commercial, educational purposes only.

The video also references the GATEWAY program.  DOE GATEWAY demonstrations showcase high-performance LED products for general illumination in a variety of commercial and residential applications.  Demonstration results provide real-world experience and data on state-of-the-art solid-state lighting (SSL) product performance and cost effectiveness.

For Additional Reading

DOE, Solid State Lighting: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/SSL/

The CALiPER program:  DOE Commercially Available LED Product Evaluation and Reporting (CALiPER) program)

GATEWAY Demonstrations: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/gatewaydemos.html