Holiday Candles without risk to your home or wallet
December is the busiest month of the year for Pat Condelli’s home-baked-good business.
December is the busiest month of the year for Pat Condelli’s home-baked-good business. To create a holiday glow — and keep customers shopping — she burns candles round-the-clock in her house. But instead of lighting and replacing tapers as they burn, Ms. Condelli flips a few switches to light up her new LED “candles,” powered by rechargeable batteries.
“I was a paramedic for seven years, so I was always on edge with real candles around,” says the New Kensington, Pa., baker. “Now, I feel safe.”
Appealing to more energy- and safety-conscious consumers for the holidays, the lighting industry is pushing electronic candles, lit with light-emitting diodes instead of bulbs. Makers say the LED candles have the advantage of not burning fingers (the lights don’t get hot) and lasting years, rather than the multiple-month life span of traditional bulbs.
LoungeLight, a European company, has just introduced its signature pillar-style candle-cum-lava lamp, about $25, that is embedded with a computer chip, battery and LED — and can be coordinated to holiday colors with the flick of a dial. Dallas-based Lighting Science Group, which specializes in LED products, introduced festive votive candles in the fall and is selling a set of six for $45.95. The latest from Philips Lighting Co.: a 5-inch tall frosted candle glass lit inside by an LED.
Much of the LED push is being motivated by safety concerns. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the number of candle-caused fires tripled to 18,000 between 1990 and 2002 because of the growing popularity of candles. But the new candles also reflect the increasing popularity of LEDs in general, which have moved from stereo equipment and dashboard clocks to everything from flashlights to street lamps. According to market research firm Strategies Unlimited, LEDs are now a $4 billion business, up from about $1.5 billion in 2001.
Makers say many of the LED candles are selling well because they’ve got a retro design. That becomes a selling factor during the holidays when warm light “has an emotional tug to it,” says Steve Goldmacher, spokesman for Philips Lighting.
Not everyone is convinced, of course. Rob Arnold, an electrical engineer in DeSoto, Kan., isn’t giving up his traditional Christmas lights just yet. Not only did the LED lights he tried have a distracting flicker, the power savings were insignificant compared with the initial cost. Mr. Arnold paid $12 for a string of LED lights — versus $2 for traditional lights at the same retailer — but calculated that his electricity savings would be minimal: “Even if I kept the lights on 24/7 from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, it would take about three years to break even.”
And while LED candles might work for a jolly holiday dinner, sometimes faux flames just don’t cut it. Special-events coordinator David Tutera, author of “The Party Planner” and host of the TV series “Party Planner with David Tutera” (Discovery Home channel), says that if romance is the object, only real candles will do: “They create that environment of love and intimacy that battery-operated products do not.”