Thursday, November 6, 2008

Help the Environment and Your Budget by Choosing LED Christmas Lights

If you have to buy new lights this year, it's really smart to check out LEDs. As has been published in many places on the web, LEDs use up to 98% less energy and therefore cost less to operate. LED Christmas lights are also brighter and last longer (an average of 5 years versus 2 years) than incandescent lights - the type we're all accustomed to. LEDs also come in a larger variety of colors.

It's hard to go wrong helping the environment by consuming less energy and saving money in the process. Especially when you're spending between 2 and 10% the usual cost to light them each year. On their site (, Diogen Lighting, a premium manufacturer of Energy Star LEDs, reports that you can save nearly $90 over 5 years powering LEDs instead of traditional incandescent lights. To get to the bottom line on total cost though, you have to factor the higher initial price tag to purchase LEDs.

Using one of our favorite sites for LED Christmas Lights, we find that the difference in price between the least expensive string of incandescent lights and the least expensive string of LED lights we could find was about $6.89. Subtracted from the $90 savings on your power bill, we find that buying Christmas LEDs provide an actual savings somewhere around $82. Now let me offer this disclaimer - that number is based on Diogen's estimates for using their lights 6 hours a day over 5 holiday seasons. Real savings may differ by brand and your actual use. The point here though is that you can see how helping the environment, saving money and getting a better product can actually be achieved in one purchase with LEDs.

You can read testimonials from people who have actually made the switch to LEDs on Energy Star's website here:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Holiday Decorating with Rope Light

Accenting different aspects of your home, inside or out, is quite easy with rope light. The versatility of rope light makes it a favorite among decorators for accent lighting. The same versatility makes it a perfect option for holiday decorating as well. Rope light is a broadly used term referring to lights that are manufactured in flexible tubing. Rope light is manufactured in many different styles and colors. Recent innovations have the same type of lighting in square, rectangular, and even strip like flexible coating. The lights come in 120 volt, LED, and a low voltage, 12 volt style. Different wiring configurations within the rope light allow for chasing or pattern effects with a controller and there are even super bright versions of the lighting.

The flexibility of rope light is only half of its story; it is also very economical. The lights can be used in lengths up to 150 feet (600 feet for the LED version) but can be cut to smaller runs. The rope has markings on it showing where the cuts can be made so that the lights are not damaged. The bulbs within the roping are not replaceable but they are typically rated for about 25,000 hours or about 10 years of typical use (100,000 hours for the LED version). Best of all, 10 feet of rope light only uses about the same amount of energy as a 60 watt light bulb and emits very little heat in the process. LED rope light runs about 75 feet for the same energy usage as a 60 watt light bulb and remains cool to the touch. With all of these options, it may be difficult to decide where to start with your holiday decorating.

Outside, rope light can be used to outline just about anything you can think up: your yard, sidewalks, windows, roofline, columns, deck rails, yard art, even mailboxes. Tree trunks can be wrapped (and unwrapped) easily with a piece of rope light. You can even create holiday messages out of rope light due to its flexibility; allowing you to wish your neighbors ‘Happy Holidays’ each night. Holiday decorating is easy with rope light because multiple colors of the roping can be spliced together to get the effect you want (like red and green or red and white). The ability to splice the different colors together allows you to match your existing lighting if necessary. Inside the house, rope lighting can be used to give a glowing effect to any greenery. Run behind garland on a mantle, allows you to hightlight the decorations. In the same manner, a piece of rope light run down along the trunk of your tree (real or artificial) provides a glow from within the tree. The most basic application indoors would be as garland on your tree. You can do this in any color and you could even create a chasing effect if you add a controller.

Don’t worry, rope light is easy to install and hook up. You can purchase the rope light in 150’ spools or in kits that contain smaller runs of rope light (usually 12 to 30 feet). Kits contain the rope light, a power-cord connecter and mounting clips. Be sure to check what is and is not included when you purchase to avoid hold ups in your decorating schedule. You may need to buy splicing connectors or extra mounting clips for your application. Typically, the power cord attaches to the rope light via a connector that is pushed into one end of the rope. A splicer works in a similar manner to connect additional lengths or colors of lighting together. The mounting clips are screwed or tacked into the surface where the rope light is to be hung at about 3 to 4 inch intervals. You can then just snap the rope light into the mounting clips. Be sure to lay out or plan your project so that the end of your rope light with the power cord is closest to your power source. Once you are done, you can sit back and enjoy your new lighting effects.

Decorating with rope light can give you dramatic payback at a low cost and without much expertise in lighting. It really provides that extra punch of light and color inside or out and I think once you start decorating with rope light, you’ll be inspired to add more in and around your home at the holidays!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Select an Artificial Christmas Tree with Confidence

Selecting the right artificial Christmas tree for you and your family is an important decision. A good quality artificial tree will be with you for many seasons. It is an investment that becomes the centerpiece of family memories and traditions. There are four main characteristics to consider when selecting an indoor artificial tree: size, shape, branches and lights.

People often look at the height of their ceilings and quickly calculate how tall of a tree they want. As a general rule, your tree should be about 6 to 12 inches shorter than your ceiling height. What many people do not consider is the width of the tree. As artificial trees get taller, their base width increases dramatically in size. You should determine how far into the room or the area that will be dedicated to the tree and take a measurement. Keep this measurement handy and check the base width of the tree as you shop. Trees often come in slender and medium versions so you may still be able to get the height of tree you desire and have it fit into the space.

Take a minute and imagine the ‘perfect’ Christmas tree. Now, think about your holiday decorating style. Do you have a large collection of ornaments that you like to display each year on your tree? Or, do you prefer to have the tree be the center of attention and the ornaments just add a little color? All of this information put together can help you find the right shape tree for your home. Traditional shaped trees are very symmetrical and have a cone or triangular shape. Due to the symmetry, traditional shaped trees are best suited for smaller ornaments and garland. Contemporary shaped trees are ‘ornament trees’. Contemporary shaped trees can offer the same beautiful tree shape overall but with some branch variation that allows for space to hang large and dangling ornaments. Contemporary shaped trees can be purely for displaying ornaments such as the ‘Upside-down’ tree. The Upside-down tree looks like a Christmas tree with the base branches being shorter and the top branches being longest. This allows for ornaments to hang without any branch obstruction.

Closely tied to the shape of the tree is the branch type and color. Heavy gauge wire for the branches is important for your tree to withstand years of use. Traditionally, the tips should be made of either high quality crush resistant PVC or the newer PE (Polyethylene). The trees now made with PE branch tips look more realistic because the branch tips are molded just like real trees out of polyethylene. Most PE trees use a combination of PE branch tips and PVC inner branches to bulk up the tree without exorbitant costs. The branch tips and needles come in varying lengths to give you traditional to rustic looks. Once you decide on the type of branch tip you like most, you can look to the branch tip count provided by the retailer to determine the fullness of the tree. A lower tip count would indicate more space for decorations and ornaments. Color is the final branch characteristic and like the type of tip, there are many different options. Different hues of green, flocking, and theme colored trees are all among your choices. Contemporary trees are now made of wire and/or aluminum to extend the color spectrum beyond various shades of green to metallic shades in every color.

Mini lights are used to light up the pre-lit trees. If you want your tree to really glow, you must consider the type of light strings that are used on the tree along with the number of bulbs on the tree. Commercial grade light strings with locking twist proof sockets will be brighter and will cut down on bulb maintenance. The higher quality light sets will also last longer on your tree. Typically, the more bulbs on the tree, the more light or glow you will get when comparing trees of the same height. There are many options for color in the lighting of your tree. Clear lights, multicolored, themed lighting, and frosted lights are just a few of the options. You should think about your home d├ęcor and tree decorations when deciding on the lights. It is often a matter of aesthetic preference and what you have grown up with throughout the years that decides the coloring of lights. Traditional trees often come in clear or multicolored options while many of the contemporary trees have multiple color options with frosted bulbs as an option. Be sure that the light sets are professionally strung on the tree so that you are not looking at a bunch of wires instead of a beautiful Christmas tree.

All of the options for artificial trees put together will help you determine the tree that best suits your needs. Once you choose your main tree, take a look at some options for additional display or decorative trees in your home. You might just find yourself hooked on decorating for the holidays!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

TruTip Christmas Trees

A few months ago jcm explained what a TruTip tree was and the materials that are used in producing them. He did not include any pictures to distinguish them apart. I though it would be nice to see the differences so I have added a picture of the old traditional PVC tree below and a few pictures of the TruTip trees in the pictures above. It is not hard to tell them apart. The Trutip needles are more realistic looking and they are also much fuller since they are not flat like the PVC needles.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Live Christmas Tree Fire

During the Christmas season many people lose their homes due to live Christmas tree fires. This video sent out by the Fire Prevention Bureau on the code not permitting live Christmas decorations in businesses will make you realize the danger in live Christmas trees. The video shows how quickly a Christmas tree will burn. It is also a good example of how smoke banks down fairly level and why a person should get down as low to the floor as possible if they find themselves in a fire situation. If there is any good air, it's at floor level.

Showing this video to children, old enough to understand, with an explanation of why they should get down and crawl might save their life. I think everyone should email this to family and friends.

Considering an artificial tree is always the best option.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Decorated Aluminum Christmas Trees

I found a great link with pictures of decorated aluminum Christmas trees. Designer Frank Fontana has some great ideas. His statement of using ribbon instead of tinsel for children's safety is something all mothers of children under three years of age should consider.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Aluminum Christmas Trees

Aluminum Christmas trees are great for decorating for all seasons. They can be fun and the center of attention creating a great conversation piece.

When it is cold outside and the days are short, brighten up your child's room by adding an Aluminum Christmas tree. The Blue Aluminum Christmas tree looks great in a boy’s room with a train theme like Thomas the Tank Engine and adds a decorator’s touch by adding the matching train tracks. The Pink Aluminum Christmas trees are just lovely in a little girl’s room with all the Little Princesses or Barbie Themes they have on the market today.

When football season comes, Aluminum Christmas trees can be decorated in your team colors. You can be very creative with the trees by adding little footballs and helmets. The red tree looks great with black ornaments for the Georgia Bull Dogs and the Atlanta Falcons. Decorate the Gold tree with little blue and white footballs, adding little St. Louis Rams helmets. Silver tree with blue ornaments for the Dallas Cowboys and the list goes on.

Halloween will be here before you know it and the black Aluminum tree with added orange lights will bring out all the little monsters. Miniature pumpkins stuffed with candy for the children to pick for themselves from the tree make for an interesting Halloween evening, especially if you hang some plastic bloody fingers from the tree.

Monday, May 5, 2008

TruTip Christmas Trees

What exactly is a TruTip™ Christmas Tree? TruTip™ is a brand name that describes the realistic nature of polyethylene (PE for short) tips on Christmas trees. I tried one of these trees in my home last Christmas season. I was pleasantly surprised with how realistic the tips on these trees are compared to that of a traditional PVC needle. PE tips allow the needles to be molded as exact replicas of real needles. PVC tips can match real needles in color and size but cannot match in shape because they are flat. PE tips are rounded just like needles of real Christmas trees such as a Frasier or Noble Fir.

For more information visit

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Craft Christmas Lights

There are mini niche markets on the Internet however one niche that not too many folks are aware of is the Craft Christmas Lights market. There are lots of "crafters" that have a need for short mini light strands with no end connector. These Craft mini lights come in sizes ranging from 15 to 35 lights and have the unique feature of NOT having an end connector at the tail of the string. This allows the mini light strand to be placed in wine bottles, glass blocks and other decorative items to create wonderful displays.

This glass block is an example of how these craft lights can be used to create a beautiful display.