By Alyson McNutt English
Solar Christmas lights don’t cost anything to operate, but are they better than plug-in LED strings?
In the last few years, energy-efficient LED holiday lights have largely replaced more wattage-thirsty incandescent strings, resulting in significant savings — LED lights use 50% less energy than their incandescent predecessors, and they last up to 10 times longer as well.
Now there’s a newish kid in the string-light neighborhood: LED solar Christmas lights promise grid-free festive lighting.
Powering up Solar Christmas Lights
A string of solar Christmas lights uses a small solar panel for power; there are no extension cords that must be plugged into outlets. The panel — about the size of a hockey puck — powers rechargeable batteries that illuminate a 25- to 100-bulb string of LED lights.
Panels come with small stakes so you can put them in the ground, where they can take advantage of the sun. A fully-charged string of lights should glow for six to eight hours after the sun goes down.
Solar Lights vs. LED Plug-In Costs
Pricing for solar-powered and plug-in LED holiday lights runs neck and neck.
Compare purchase prices:
- A 100-light string of miniature solar-powered LED lights costs about $20 to $40.
- A 100-light string of miniature plug-in LED lights costs about $20 to $46.
Compare costs to operate:
- Operating a string of plug-in LED holiday lights for 300 hours — more than enough time for an entire holiday season — costs about 24 cents, using an average energy cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).
- Solar-powered Christmas lights, of course, don’t cost anything to operate. That means you’re saving 24 cents per year in energy costs.
Advantages of Solar Lights
- No extension cords
- No need for exterior electrical outlets
- Withstand cold temperatures and precipitation
- Zero cost to operate
- Light output comparable to plug-in lighting
- Green option
- May not operate under cloudy skies
- Unproven longevity (too new on the market for results)