Everything You Should Know About LED vs Incandescent Christmas Lights - Backyard Boss
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Everything You Should Know About LED vs Incandescent Christmas Lights

Your holiday lights help spread joy throughout your neighborhood. However, getting those lights set up can be anything but joyful. In fact, choosing the right lights for your home is often overwhelming. Before you start shopping for your lights, you should learn the difference between LED and incandescent lights. By looking at a comparison of LED vs incandescent Christmas lights, you can figure out which type is right for you. This guide tells you everything you need to know about the two types of lights, so you can get started with your holiday decoration shopping.

How Do Incandescent Christmas Lights Work?

closeup of multicolor incandescent christmas lights in the dark

Incandescent holiday lights work in an interesting way. Small wires, known as shunts, sit under the filament. The shunts have a special coating that allows them to work as insulators. If the filament is intact, no electricity can pass through the shunt. The filament gets all the electricity and creates light.

When a filament receives the electricity, it gets so hot that it becomes bright. This is what makes your holiday lights shine. However, the filament could burn out over time.

Without a filament, there is no light in the bulb. The electricity makes the shunt very hot, and melts the coating on the outside. When this occurs, the wire underneath conducts electricity to the next bulb. As a result, you can have one light out but the other lights on the strand will remain functional.

How Do LED Christmas Lights Work?

While incandescent lights have simple mechanics, LED lights are more complex. If you don’t have a degree in physics, it may be difficult for you to understand the way in which these bulbs work. LED lights rely on a diode. In the diode, there are two semiconductor materials. When current moves through the wires, electrons travel from the negative semiconductor to a positive one. The electrons collide with electron holes, which makes them release energy. Then, the energy release shows up as light.

tuxedo cat on knit print blanket with white LED Christmas lights

If an LED fails, there is no shunt. However, the whole string of lights continues to work. A failed bulb simply shorts out, creating a path of less resistance. The current can travel through the dead LED and into the other bulbs.

What are the Drawbacks to LED Christmas Lights?

There’s only one real drawback to using LED lights. When comparing LED vs incandescent Christmas lights, it’s easy to see that LEDs cost more. If you’re looking to replace all your lights with LED lights, you’ll find the change expensive.

Although the up-front cost is more, the energy savings and durability of LEDs make them more affordable in the long-run. Your LED lights are an investment.

What’s the Real Difference Between LED and Incandescent Christmas Lights?

When you’re shopping for Christmas lights, you might be overwhelmed by your selection. While you may focus all of your time on looking for lights that look the best, you also need to consider other traits. Are the lights energy efficient? Are they bright enough? The differences of LED vs incandescent Christmas lights explain those traits.

LED Christmas Lights Use Less Power

One of the main differences between LED and incandescent lights is the energy use. LED bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. In an incandescent bulb, the filament uses up significant energy to remain lit. But LED bulbs use a diode that requires minimal energy.

In fact, LED bulbs use over 75% less energy than the alternative. By only using LED Christmas lights, you can save money on your energy bill. You can also decrease your environmental footprint.

Think about all the energy you use during the holiday season. All of your holiday inflatables, outdoor lights, and indoor lights increase your energy bill. Furthermore, the cold weather that comes around every Christmas means higher heating bills. If you don’t want to have astronomical energy bills, you can switch to LED lights.

LED lights with decorative trees

LED Christmas Lights Are Brighter

LED bulbs tend to be brighter than incandescent bulbs of the same wattage. However, LED bulbs aren’t available in high wattages.

For the most part, Christmas lights are low in wattage. To make sure your lights shine brightly, you can use LED lights. When placed side by side with your incandescent holiday lights, you’ll notice a difference.

colorful LED christmas lights on floor

Incandescent Christmas Lights Produce More Heat

Incandescent lights use filaments, and those filaments create light when they get hot. If you touch an incandescent bulb, you can feel the heat. But an LED light doesn’t glow because of heat; it glows because of photons. As a result, the bulb doesn’t feel hot.

The fact that LED bulbs don’t get hot could make your home safer. From 2013 to 2017, fire departments in the U.S answered 160 house fires caused by Christmas trees. With cooler lights, you’re less likely to experience a fire.

Incandescent Christmas Lights Are Less Durable

When comparing LED vs incandescent Christmas lights, there’s the issue of durability. Because LED lights are made of plastic, they are more durable than the glass incandescent lights. When it’s time to put away your Christmas decorations, you don’t need to treat your LED strands with kid gloves.


Is It Worth the Cost to Switch?

prelighted artificial tree with semi realistic needle shape and color

Are you wondering whether or not you should switch out your incandescent lights with LED ones? If so, you can stop wondering and start shopping. Although LED lights are more expensive than incandescent lights, they come with significant savings. They’ll last longer, cost less to run, and could prevent house fires.

Years ago, there were disadvantages to using LED Christmas lights. The lights didn’t replicate the same warm glow as incandescent Christmas lights, and there wasn’t much variety. However, things are different now. Technology has advanced, and LED lights can replicate the light of incandescent ones. They are also widely available in stores, so you have plenty of variety to choose from.


As the holiday season nears, it’s time to start thinking about your Christmas lights. You need to plan ahead for the holidays. Learning about LED vs incandescent Christmas lights is the first step towards getting ready for the season of giving. If you only have incandescent lights, it might be time to update your collection. If you have an opinion on LED or incandescent lights, comment below.