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Remember "The Little Drummer Boy"? Being moved by its message (that unconventional gifts have merit), I've urged others to give LED light bulbs during the holidays.

Here’s an update on LEDs, the gift that keeps on giving year after year, this year turning an $8 investment into around $135 in saved energy costs over time.

In 2010 the pricey 60 watt equivalent LED bulb that I stuffed relatives’ Christmas stockings with cost $40/bulb. This year CREE has a new 60 watt equivalent bulb out. The soft white variety costs $7.97 at Home Depot —the whiter, daylight style light, a buck more.

The bulb is built in the USA, pa rum pum pum pum.

It’s 11 watts, pa rum pum pum pum.

It saves 71 kilowatt hours a year (if lit four hours a day), pa rum pum pum pum.

You’ll burn 53 pounds less coal each year, pa rum pum pum pum.

The candle-like tower within the bulb has LED chips around it that distribute its 850 lumens better than former designs. The unobtrusive, shark-gill-like cuts in the case allow air to flow through the bulb keeping its LED chips cooler and extending their life.

The bulb dims without buzzing if you use the dimmers listed on the bulb’s web site. They contain no mercury to complicate recycling.

Cree’s website has a calculator for determining cost-efficiency. I ran it, learning that if I burn a bulb for two hours a day, it pays for itself in energy saved within two years. If the bulb is lit four hours a day, the reduction in energy use will pay for it within a year (at Colorado rates of $0.1187 cents/kWh). That’s well within the three-year warranty and 25,000-hour rated life.

For 20 more years your savings will swell, pa rum pum pum pum.

Till your bulb fails and goes to hell, pa rum pum pum pum.

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum.

Just change a light for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,

when you come.

Lately, I've received more requests for donations to help folks caught in weather-related disasters. Such events are becoming more common as global warming heats up the atmosphere adding “fuel” to storm intensity. Natural disasters cost the global insurance industry around $45 billion U.S. dollars in 2013, but the human and uninsured loss toll was higher. According to re-insurer Swiss Re’s publication "Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013," more than 14,000 lives were lost in weather-related catastrophes. Uninsured losses rarely exceeded $50 billion during any year prior to 1987. They've exceeded those losses in every year but one from 1988 to 2013, and more than tripled that benchmark in eight of those years since 1988. Much of those losses came from weather made more intense as greenhouse gases build up.

Perhaps part of our finest gift this season should go into buying LEDs. It’ll help reduce greenhouse gases released in electricity production and mitigate the resulting storm intensity. Since the bill to fund government has riders revoking the 2007 lighting efficiency standards and preventing President Obama from making good on his commitment to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, our gifts can help avert more severe heat waves, floods and storms, and reduce the relief necessary when they happen. And, such philanthropy will soon leave money left over to contribute more next time you see a holiday plea for disaster relief.

For many, Advent is the season symbolizing hope and waiting for the light. While LEDs are not the hoped-for light referenced in our Advent tradition, unless you’re going to hope for even lower prices, your wait for deals on these energy-efficient lights is over.

However, if you wait another two years to burn out an incandescent bulb that you use two hours a day, you will have cast off enough electricity to pay for the cost of replacing that bulb today. You’ll still have to pay for an efficient light when the old bulb fizzles. And you will have postponed the advent of your hoped for light and the full enjoyment of its economic, environmental and humanitarian benefits.

Happy holidays! 

University of Montana graduate Russ Doty is CEO/general counsel for New World WindPower, representing clients and writing on renewable energy and conservation issues from Greeley, Colo.


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