You know LEDs have officially arrived when they’re not only making the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. sparkle, but they’re also capturing the attention of budding inventors who are unlocking their potential.
On the official front, most people don’t know that GE has been designing and lighting the National Christmas Tree every holiday season since 1962. And even fewer know that for the last two years, the lit tree has been more efficient than ever, due to Energy Star-qualified LED lights.
The resulting energy savings has been substantial: Whereas power demand for the National Tree using incandescent bulbs ran in excess of 50,000 watts, total power consumption for this year’s tree is about 7,000 watts, with each ornament consuming just two watts.
Meanwhile, blogger Robert Sun Quattlebaum created some Christmas buzz on his blog, “Deep Darc,” when he posted a video of what he calls “the most awesome Christmas lights ever” — the GE Color Effects G-35.
Although we thought the lights were pretty cool right out of the box, Robert, with a bit of unauthorized, don’t-try-it-at-home “reverse engineering” was able to gain color and brightness control over each individual light, developing a display where “the possibilities are endless.”
The interactive demo below from the GE Holiday Lighting team shows how the lights look when you first buy them. Press the “function” button on the remote to toggle through the 14 settings.
As for the National Christmas Tree, did you know?
- In 1980, during the Iran hostage crisis, President Jimmy Carter lit only the tree-top star. On Jan. 20, 1981, following President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration and the release of hostages, the tree was lit for a brief period.
- In 1882, the first electrically lighted Christmas Tree was unveiled in the New York City home of Edward Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison. Johnson, who lived in the first city block in the world to be wired for electricity, had 80 hand-blown and hand-wired glass globes in patriotic hues of red, white, and blue decorating his tree.
- In the early days of holiday lighting, Christmas bulbs were an extravagance that often were rented instead of purchased. The bulbs had to be wired together by hand by an electrician who then connected them with heavy black cords into an overhead light fixture to provide the electricity.
- GE began mass manufacturing miniature bulbs, and by 1901, advertising promoted the message that “the danger ever present with candlelit trees is entirely removed.”
- It wasn’t until 1903 that ready-made strings of wiring, called “festoons,” were invented by the Ever-Ready Company of New York. Merchants sold these festoons of 28 sockets alongside boxes of GE-colored bulbs.