LED Christmas Light Shopping Guide
Its not quite Halloween but soon enough all of the retail stores will start putting out their Christmas lights, decorations and other holiday products. This year LED Christmas lights will most likely be even more prominent on retail shelves than they were last year. If you are shopping for LED Christmas lights this year there are a few things you should consider.
Look for Flicker-Free or Full Wave LED Christmas Lights
Like most products, all LED Christmas lights are not created equal. One of the most common complaints about LED Christmas lights is that they seem to "flicker" or "flash." This is true. In fact, most of the Christmas lights using LED lighting technology do flicker. This is because they are what many people in the LED holiday lighting industry refer to as "half-wave" or "non-rectified" light sets. Essentially, a non-rectified LED Christmas light set turns on and off at a rate of about 60 times per second. While this is very fast it is not fast enough to trick the human eye. Full-wave or rectified LED Christmas lights, on the other hand, do not produce any flickering effect. In addition, full-wave Christmas lights are up to 40% brighter than 1/2 wave sets.
How do you tell if an LED light set is "Full-Wave"
Most of the LED Christmas light sets we have analyzed from the big box retailers are not full-wave. That's not to say there isn't a big box retailer out there that offers them--we just aren't aware of any. In any case, its safe to say that if the product is full-wave it will be advertised as such since it is such a great feature. So a general rule of thumb is to assume it is not full-wave if it does not say so.
Look for Weather Resistant Bulbs
One of the main advantages of LED Christmas lights is that a good set should last at least 10 times as long as a comparable incandescent set. However, if the light set is not designed to withstand long term exposure to the elements it will never have a chance to earn its value. That is why it is critical that you look for an Christmas LED light set that utilizes non-corrosive components or is a single mold bulb construction so that it makes a good indoor or outdoor Christmas lights. Most products offered by big box retailers do not have single mold construction or non-corrosive components. If the light sets don't, they will rust out before they even have a chance to light up your holiday for 10 years or more.
Look for a "No-Hassle" Warranty that Backs Up the Advertising Claims
If LED Christmas lights are supposed to last for 50,000 hours or more why don't many stores warrant them for that long? The answer in many cases is because the manufacturer knows the lights won't last that long. Its not worth spending the extra money for LED Christmas lights if they won't last as long as a much cheaper incandescent light strand. Its also important to look at the fine print of the warranty. What do you have to do to get a replacement set? How long will it take to get a replacement set? In many cases, the manufacturer or retailer requires that you return the defect set (postage paid) and wait up to 8 weeks for a replacement. (And this assumes you meet all the requirements of the fine print.)
The first 3 items we mentioned are the most important and easiest for the consumer to analyze; however, there are a few other characteristics that can differentiate high quality LED Christmas lights from low quality sets as well as a few other things the shopper should consider.
Color temperature refers to the color of the light itself. Another common complaint about white LED Christmas lights was that they looked "blue" or "bluish." A high quality white Christmas light using LEDs should not appear blue--even if it is a pure white color. A pure white LED Christmas light should be a bright white color--similar to fluorescent but not blue. A warm white LED Christmas light should be very similar in color to a traditional clear incandescent Christmas light. Unfortunately, you can't tell unless the lights are plugged in, so look for a retailer who has a display where you can see the actual color of the light or an online retailer that has hi-resolution images of the product while illuminated.
The impact of the style of bulb in LED Christmas lights is much different than with incandescent Christmas lights. In most cases, the size and power of the LED in all light sets is the same--the only difference is the size and shape of the hunk of plastic covering the LED. However, the size and shape of the LED bulb style does impact the way the light appears.
LED light is a highly directional light. If the bulb or lens does not do a good job of diffusing the light it will appear different from many different vantage points. The wide angle style Christmas light does the best job of equally diffusing the LED light. The Christmas mini light is a close second followed by the G12 and C6. While the G12 and C6 do not diffuse the LED light as evenly, the larger lens softens the bright LED light a bit so this is a good choice if you are looking for a softer appearance.
Who knew there was so much to know about LED Christmas lights?