Shopping for lights can a be a tricky situation. In the past, it seemed like every year my family would need to go out and buy new lights when the ones from last year kicked the bucket. But the technology has improved over time, and fortunately for the wallet, the prices have begun to drop on the best lights, too. The debate between buying incandescent lights and light-emitting diode lights (LEDs) is something I’ve debated more and more each passing year. The facts are indisputably in favor of LEDs; they run with a much lower wattage (and use 80 percent less energy as a result), last much, much longer, emit much less heat than conventional incandescent bulbs, and the best part – when a LED bulb stops working, it doesn’t kill the rest of the strand! For a really cool infographic comparing incandescent lights to LEDs, Daily Infographic has the topic covered.

But the price of LEDs, which were at one point at least ten times more expensive than incandescent holiday lights, was a major issue on my limited budget. The tides have begun to turn though, as many major websites and retailers are embracing the newer lights at a more affordable cost. A quick search for 100 lights of each type shows an incandescent set starting at $6.99, while a LED set is just over $22.

In addition, the Kansas City Star reports that General Electric projects forty percent of all holiday light sets sold this year will be LEDs. And that makes sense, considering all the shelf space they’re getting. Costco is selling no incandescent lights at all this year, while most Wal-Mart stores devoted half of its lighting shelf space to LEDs for the holidays. Wal-Mart also dropped their price of a 50-light set from $6.30 last year to $5 now. “We know our customers are gravitating towards them,” said Debbie Serr, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

But leaving the initial cost aside for a minute, the real savings can be found in the long-term livelihood of LEDs. The Marietta Daily Journal cites a study from the U.S. Department of Energy showing that holiday lighting uses enough electricity to provide power to 200,000 homes for a year – so any means to cut back on usage is important. As the Daily Infographic noted, the cost to run a 10 mini light string for the holidays is nearly ten times cheaper for LEDs than for incandescent lights – $11.06 versus $1.30 for LEDs.

I cannot pinpoint exactly how they came up with that figure (based on usage, how long the lights ran, the price of electricity used, etc), but the numbers are comparable to an excellent article The Daily Beast put together on buying regular LED lights as holiday presents. They explain below:

“the 75-watt LED uses only 18 percent as much energy as a 75-watt incandescent to produce the same amount of light. Let’s say you use it three hours a day in a state where electricity costs about 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Over the course of the year, the 75-watt incandescent uses 82 kilowatt hours of electricity, costing $11.48. With a 75-watt LED, that same lighting would cost $2.06, for a savings of $9.71 per year.”

They go a step further and examine the cost savings over the projected life of most LED lights later in the article.

“One of the selling points of LEDs is that they last a long time – [LED] bulbs are supposed to last for 25,000 hours and come with a 10-year warranty…In 25,000 hours a regular 75-watt bulb would use $262.50 of electricity. Over the same period, the [LED] would use just $47.25 in electricity. That's a savings of $215.25.”

Now I would never expect anybody to run their holiday lights for 25,000 hours in any capacity, but you get the idea. The extra money spent towards investing in LEDs will benefit your wallet over time, assuming you can take care of the lights so they won’t be damaged. In The Daily Beast article, Mike Watson, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Cree, a notable LED manufacturer, best sums up the idea, “[LED lighting] isn’t a disposable commodity… It is a transferrable asset.”

Another thing to keep an eye out when looking to save money on purchasing LEDs is for the barrage of post-holiday sales from many big box retailers. They’re all looking to move merchandise after Kris Kringle makes his rounds, and prices will drop once again – making times holly jolly once again.