GE Makes the National Christmas Tree Greener

New eco-friendly, LED lighting makes energy savings a high-tech holiday tradition

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, how lovely are your…computer chips?

That's right, this year, GE Appliances & Lighting is outfitting the National Christmas Tree with lamps fitted with tiny computer chips that release multi-colored light — called LEDs (light emitting diodes) — the latest in energy efficient lighting. The effect should create a tree that's brilliantly different than the traditional incandescent lights…and more than a hundred times more energy efficient.

As planning began for the 2007 tree, officials from the White House and the National Park Service asked GE to look into the possibility of adding LEDs in this year's design. "LEDs are becoming the first choice for so many people who want long lasting, beautiful and energy efficient lighting in their holiday lighting. It's only natural that we should have it for the national tree, too," said Kathy Presciano, lighting designer for the National Tree, who works for GE Appliances & Lighting. "This year, we've produced a GE 26-light string that we believe will fit the bill. It should save over 120 watts of energy for every string of lights," Presciano said.

An experiment in savings

Traditionally, the National Christmas Tree holds 500 strings of incandescent lights, not counting the topper. This year, in keeping with GE's commitment to eco-friendly initiatives, the company replaced those bulbs with multicolored LEDs. In addition to the tremendous energy savings, LEDs have nearly 20 times the life of a traditional, incandescent lamp, meaning these lights can be used year after year.

"We'll have to make adjustments as we go to get the right number of strings on the tree and the right level of brightness. But once we do, we will establish a new tradition of energy conservation for the National Tree, and a template we can use for years to come," Presciano said.

Innovation behind the scenes
Planning for this year's tree began almost as soon as last year's tree was taken down–a typical timeline regardless of the lighting technology. Presciano began conceptualizing this tree and putting together preliminary drawings as early as January.

That much lead-time is necessary because, once approved, the tree's ornaments need to be fabricated. This year's tree will feature approximately 125 red bows that are 26 inches high and nearly 20 inches wide. SABIC Innovative Plastics, located in Pittsfield, Mass. SABIC donated Lexan™ polycarbonate sheet for the ornaments because it is resistant to sun and impact, and works well in outdoor lighted sign applications. The red shiny garland, all 1,000 feet of it–will feature red LED lights, too.

While this year's topper will be the same 42-inch, three-dimensional star design used last year, it will be refabricated for the 2007 season using GE's Tetra Power White LEDs. Sold primarily to industrial sign makers, this LED is 15 times brighter than the standard LED. When completed, this topper is intended to be an "heirloom" topper, which can be used year after year.

Looking to the future
"LEDs are becoming more and more popular because they last much longer and are extremely energy efficient," Presciano said. For instance, one 26-lamp string of traditional lights lasts 1,000 hours and burns at 125 watts. The same size string in LED lasts 20,000 hours and burns at 2.3 watts. One set of LED lights costs only ten cents of electricity to run all season, Presciano said.

Presciano is excited about the road ahead. "This is a time of bold new frontiers in eco-friendly lighting. We're proud to bring those innovations to light on the National Tree," Presciano said. For more information on how you can use eco-friendly lighting technology in your home, visit www.gelighting.com.