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Nation’s Christmas tree goes green

This year, crews won’t just be trimming the National Christmas Tree, they’ll be trimming the nation’s energy bill, too, with the most energy-efficient holiday display in our national history.

Lit almost entirely by light-emitting diodes called LEDs, the 2008 National Christmas Tree display will be 50 percent more energy efficient than last year’s display.

Opening ceremony for the 85th annual tree lighting will be held at 5 p.m. today in Washington, D.C.

While LEDs were used on the national tree for the first time in 2007, this year’s display saves even more energy by eliminating the lighted garland and making use of smaller, lighter-weight ornaments.

This year also marks the first year that all 56 U.S. state and territory trees will be powered by LED lights donated by GE Consumer & Industrial, for a substantial savings in energy.

“LEDs have become the cool, new technology in lighting, and with good reason,” said Kathy Presciano, designer of the National Christmas Tree and lighting designer for GE. “They use a fraction of the energy, and they last 10 times as long as a traditional incandescent light. They worked so well for last year’s national tree, this year we decided to expand them to the state trees, too,” Presciano said.

Having entered the market in force last Christmas season, prelit LED trees, LED light sets and even LED outdoor decorations are now a mainstream choice for consumers looking to decorate their homes for the holidays. “Expect to see them become brighter, more efficient and more versatile with each passing year,” Presciano said.

This year’s national tree will carry more than 37,000 individual LED lights, including the topper and the background lights. The 42-inch tall, star-shaped tree topper is an heirloom piece used for the last two years. It is outfitted with industrial-grade, white GE Tetra LEDs, offered by the manufacturer’s LED division, Lumination. As many as 680 50-light strings of clear LEDs will provide a dazzling backdrop to the tree. Each string costs only 14 cents to operate for a full four-week holiday season.

Presciano noted that for reasons of brightness and weight restrictions, more than 140 star-shaped ornaments were created using clear incandescent lights. Each ornament weighs less than 2 pounds. This year’s 12-inch, 3-D ornaments were made from interlocking Lexan panels with applied bright gold, holographic mosaic vinyl. Designed to catch the sun, the ornaments will make the tree look lit, even when it’s turned off during the day.

While groups from each state are responsible for the ornaments decorating their own state tree, GE donated more than 360 strings of clear LED lights to serve as their background lights. The clear lights will match the national tree and help create a unified look when the trees are lit, Presciano said.

Planning for the 2008 tree started last January as Presciano began creating architectural drawings of the ornaments and choosing lights from the company’s inventory. But one of the biggest issues is how to take down the lights at the end of the season.

“With LEDs lasting so much longer, we’re carefully taking them off and storing them so we can create an inventory of light resources for the country that will last for years,” Presciano said.

Last year’s garland, topper, ornaments and multicolored strings were saved, she noted, and should be rotated back into use in years to come.

GE has been designing the National Christmas Tree since 1962, producing and donating the lighting and decorations. Presciano has personally designed every tree since 1995.

“It may take months of planning and work to design the tree, but there’s nothing quite like the reward you get when the president flips the switch and the tree just comes to life. It’s the symbol of the holidays, and the blessing of being able to celebrate together, in freedom. It’s an honor for GE to be a part of that,” she said.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is an unbroken tradition that began in 1923 when Calvin Coolidge lit the first tree on the Ellipse

Information courtesy GE

 

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