Jason Sheetz is a serious Christmas enthusiast.
Last year, the owner of Hammock Trading Company in Sandy Springs adorned his rooftop with an inflatable Santa Claus in a hammock between two palm trees. Icicle lights dangled from the galvanized steel roof.
The display caught the attention of judges from the city of Sandy Springs’s holiday lights competition. They recognized the business with an honorable mention in the annual contest known as Sparkle Sandy Springs.
This year, he’s considering testing LED Christmas lights as a way to cut down on his need for extension cords.
“I can’t believe the price difference in what you save really makes up for the price difference between LEDs and incandescent [lights],” Sheetz said. “But it looks like they’re coming down in price. We might try one or two sets.”
LED technology is already pervasive in light bulbs and headlights, but it’s now becoming more common in the jolly world of Christmas decorations. LED, which stands for Light Emitting Diode, allows light bulbs to provide bright light while using a fraction of the electricity needed for traditional bulbs.
Allen Dawson, owner of Ace Hardware in Buckhead, said there are several advantages to using LED Christmas lights.
“You don’t have to worry about blowing fuses on your lights or extension cords or anything like that,” Dawson said. “Your electric bill goes down dramatically.”
For those who like to connect many strands of lights together, LED may be the way to go, Dawson said.
“The normal ones, even commercial ones, you can usually only hook 6 lights together, which would be like 600 lights,” Dawson said. “LEDS, even with 100 lights, you can hook like 43 sets together.”
The lower electricity demand reduces the need for extension cords needed to make multiple strands of lights connect. He said one of his customers went with LEDs to make a 25,000 outdoor display.
LED technology isn’t new, but it’s just now becoming affordable for many people. Dawson said he started selling LED holiday lights at Ace three or four years ago, but “they really started catching on last year or the year before.”
Dawson said he expects to sell more this year. Depending on the type of lights, LEDs typically cost about 25 percent more than traditional Christmas lights. But they’ve also gone down in price. Dawson said in the past, LEDs were really expensive for many customers. But this year, the price will be a little more in line with regular lights.
“Just like any new technology … price eventually does start going down,” Dawson said.
Another advancement in the LED technology is that they now have the warmer light of incandescent bulbs, rather than the bright, bluish light often associated with LEDs.
“Some had a purple-y tinge to them, others were so bright white. They’ve adjusted them, where they’re more traditional-looking now,” Dawson said. “There’s some they call ‘pure white,’ some they call ‘traditional white,’ which are just like the old-timey ones.”
Sheetz said the color is one reason he’s hesitated to try the LED lights.
“I don’t have a lot of experience with the LEDs. But I will tell you, the reason I’ve stayed away from LEDs is the way they look – they’re a little blue,” Sheetz said.
However, he likes to hang multiple strands of lights and is intrigued by the possibility of using fewer extension cords.
“Here’s something I think is cool about them, that’s always been an inconvenience about other lights, is they use so little power you can make a longer run of them,” Sheetz said.
Regardless of what type of lights he uses, Sheetz planned to go all out with his decorations again this year.
“We’re going to see if we can add a larger lit structure in our front lawn area, along Roswell Road, in addition to Santa in the hammock and lights,” Sheetz said. “We’re going to see how far we can push it, how big we can get without offending all the neighbors.”