By Patricia Daukantas
When New York’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree burst into glorious colors on national television last night, the brilliant light came from energy-saving LEDs for the first time ever.
Until this year, incandescent bulbs had always lit the giant tree, which has been a Big Apple tradition since the 1930s. However, the 2007 tree, an 84-foot (25.6-m) Norway spruce, is strung with 30,000 LEDs on 5 miles (8 km) of electrical wire. For each of the 42 days that the tree is illuminated, it will consume 1,297 kWh of electricity instead of the 3,510 kWh used by the old-fashioned bulbs. The difference is enough to power a 2,000-square-foot (186-m2) single-family home for a month.
According to New York municipal officials and the Rockefeller Center management, the “green” tree is part of an environmentally oriented package that includes installation of a 363-panel photovoltaic roof that feeds into the electrical grid of the building complex. The roof will power the tree during the holiday season, and when the tree is taken down in January, the wood will be cut up for use in Habitat for Humanity homes.
With energy prices at record highs, more manufacturers are starting to produce LED holiday lighting for home use, too. Not only do LEDs save caboodles of electricity, but they last up to 100 times longer than conventional bulbs. If you’ve ever spent a December afternoon wrestling with a long string of series-linked incandescent lights, trying to figure out which bulb blew out and made the whole string go dark, you’ll appreciate the long lifetime.
Nevertheless, LED lights still cost more than their old-fashioned counterparts, so it may take a family a few seasons to recoup the cost.
For photos of the tree, check out this photo gallery from the New York Daily News.
2007-11 November, Optics and pop culture