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LIers split on LEDs for Christmas displays

Matthew Cordaro, of Shoreham, prefers to use LED

Matthew Cordaro, of Shoreham, prefers to use LED lights for his Christmas light display because he says they last longer and use less energy. (Dec. 16, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Sally Morrow

Each year, Matthew Cordaro festoons his Wading River property with enough Christmas lights to land a commercial jetliner in heavy fog.

So it should come as no surprise that Cordaro, once a top executive of the former Long Island Lighting Co., is on the cutting edge. His light selection has evolved from traditional incandescent bulbs toward newfangled LED lights.

"I get into setting up for Christmas," said Cordaro, who hangs lights from every available outdoor surface. "I have 10,000 LED lights."

LEDs are smaller, more efficient lights that use a fraction of the energy, but cost more to buy. The premium is not as great as it used to be - Rite Aid sells strings of LEDs for $20; incandescents are less than half that price.

But Keith Buerkert of Island Park, another Christmas-light fanatic, is turned off by LEDs.

"I'm still using the regular lights because I don't like the way the LEDs shine," said Buerkert. He has almost 12,000 incandescent lights in his display, he said, and runs a side business installing lights for neighbors.

"I don't like the [LED's] color. They're not as bright as the others," Buerkert said.

Cordaro's conversion to LEDs wasn't overnight. As his incandescent lighting displays expanded, he began maxing out his electrical system.

"My circuit breakers started going off," he said. "That's when I started using LEDs. You can string a million of them together and it won't trip the circuit breaker."

Incandescents are cheaper in the store, but more expensive to light up. Three hundred of the traditional bulbs use up 216 kilowatt hours of electricity, costing $34 for the season, while 300 LEDs use only 6 kilowatt hours, costing 89 cents, according to the Long Island Power Authority.

LEDs "can save you a considerably amount of money," said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a green-energy advocate.

He doesn't think LEDs don't look as nice.

"A lot of perception is in the eyes of the beholder," Raacke said. "My wife likes them, which says a lot."

Buerkert can attest to the price of staying incandescent.

"It is what it is," he said. "For two months, my LIPA bill goes up by $50 to $60 for the month. It kind of hurts in the pocket, but for two months? It's for the kids."

Veronica Alves of Farmingdale said while she prefers incandescent bulbs, LEDs now make up about 25 percent of her display - in part because new offerings in stores favor the latter.

She said LEDs come in an acceptable variety of colors, but added, "They're just not as bright."

Alves isn't concerned about the higher electricity cost of regular lights. "For the little time they're on, I just suck it up," she said.

The new bulbs could lower Cordaro's electric bill - if only he stopped expanding his displays.

"I now use more lights, and keep them on longer," he said.

"Once you do it, you find a way to keep adding to it," he said, noting that last year's show took him nearly two weeks to set up. "It's a sickness."

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