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Lighting the Holidays with Unconventional Colorful LEDs

Every holiday season, we hear about new toys and gadgets on the shelves of stores and beneath the Christmas tree. Except for variations in color, brightness and flashing features, incandescent bulbs traditionally have been the lights adorning trees indoors and brightening the environment outdoors. Thanks to Yardley, Penn.-based R&D house FiberOptic Designs, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) now provide an alternative to decorative holiday lighting. Using its patented method for driving LEDs from an ac source, FiberOptic Designs has successfully manufactured a new type of holiday light. In fact, the developer has created a method to configure LEDs in series and then drive them directly from the standard 110/120-Vac wall outlets without the use of transformers. As outlets in other parts of the world offer different voltages, the company has also applied for patents overseas.

Although, LEDs have been available for holiday lighting for a few years, they weren’t popular because they needed batteries or transformers and weren’t manufactured for outdoor use. However, LEDs are slowly inching toward homes and automobiles, replacing traditional light bulbs and signal lights.

Called Forever Bright, these new LED-based holiday lights use 80% to 90% less electricity than standard incandescent light strings and are designed to last up to 200,000 hours, according to the manufacturer. That means, unlike conventional holiday lights, there are no glass bulbs to break or filaments to burn out. By that standard, the LED lights use one-tenth the amount of electricity consumed by bulbs and could last for 20 years. A recent government study indicates that for residential holiday light operation alone in America, homeowners consume nearly 2 billion kWh a year—sufficient to power 200,000 homes for a year. Obviously, the power savings afforded by LED holiday lights are phenomenal. Additionally, taking in to account the lifespan of LEDs, the amount of wastage going into landfills will be reduced dramatically. By comparison, tens of millions of conventional bulbs sold each year wind up in landfills after only a few years of use.

Another cool feature is that when the LED is lit, the temperature is only 1°F above ambient room temperature. “This makes them much safer than traditional bulbs, which can become a fire hazard," said Dave Allen, president of FiberOptic Designs. In addition, the bulbs are made of a solid-state epoxy that won't break like normal bulbs and are UL approved for indoor or outdoor use. Also, according to Allen, the LED lights can be jostled, packed, unpacked, or turned on and off continuously without shortening the lifespan of the light.

The lights come in standard light strings of 35, 50, 70, 100 and 105 counts, and are available in red, green, blue and white, as well multicolored arrays. They also come in numerous designs and sizes. In addition, the company has developed flashing LED lights. However, because the manufacturing cost goes up by almost a dollar for flashing lights, they currently aren’t as popular. The developer is using its own manufacturing facility in China as well as contract manufacturers in China to produce these LED strings for the holidays. Since the developer first introduced LEDs for holiday lighting in 2001, it has realized a gain in sales each year. To increase production and marketing of these holiday lights, FiberOptic Designs has inked a manufacturing agreement with Holiday Creations Inc. of Littleton, Colo.

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Happy Holidays

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