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Park City lights up

Holiday lighting is going "green," but installers are not in an envious position.

New LED energy efficient lights require 80 percent less energy and last longer, said Dean Lyons, owner of Brite Nites.

The lights have been around for a few years but are catching on slowly, he said. They’re a little brighter, the light is crisper and looks a little different, he explained. Some colors like purple and pink are hard to find and a little more expensive. All in all, he thinks they’re the wave of the future.

City Hall agrees, and is using LED lights in all their lighting. It started last year with Main Street, and they worked so well, looked so good and saved so much money the city decided to switch over, explained Maria Barndt, city landscaper and gardener.

Barndt described the light as being a little colder, and "bright, clean and clear."

She said the new lights are safer, and because of the savings, the city is able to decorate more trees this year.

"It’s not a major factor in the electric bill now," she said.

A typical job might increase an electric bill by as much as $200, Lyon said. Really big jobs might see that climb to $1,000. An 80 percent decrease in that is a big deal, he said.

Justin Headman, with Headman Lawn Care, also puts up holiday lights in the Park City area and said he’s still waiting and watching with LED lights to see if the promises pan out. So far so good, he said, but as with any new technology, kinks need to be worked out. He’s not going to spend the extra money on them until he’s sure they last longer and are safer.

"There are a lot of advantages to them, but they honestly haven’t really proven themselves yet," he said.

With Park City residents and businesses leaving lights on for nearly 6 months, he thinks the energy savings might be worth giving them a shot anyway. And at about five times the price retail, he also predicts they’ll become more affordable within the next couple years.

As Headman’s company name suggests, his primary business is lawn care. More and more landscapers and lawn care professionals are getting into holiday lighting to stay busy during the winter months.

"People are recognizing it’s a solid business three months a year," Lyon said.

Brite Nites was one of the first businesses to specialize in holiday lighting over a dozen years ago. Back then, hardly anybody did it, he said.

Like lawn care 30 years ago, the idea of paying someone to do it for you caught on slowly but is now normal, he said. He used to work construction, and got the idea when a man across the street from his work site offered him $50 to take his lights down. It took 30 minutes and both men were happy.

Since those days, so many companies have gotten into the business that competition for available jobs is getting stiff. Combined with the slowing economy, it may be a bad year for lighting crews.

"I imagine everyone ought to be nervous a little bit, like doing snow removal and having no snow," Headman said. "If we didn’t have a good customer base already then it’d be a horrible year."

Wealthier homeowners are still going all out, Lyon said, but others are scaling back or not doing it at all this year.

For many, lights are such an important part of the holidays and climbing ladders is so dangerous, Lyon predicts professional lighting to continue growing.

Dana Gillin, with Christmas in Park City, said she’s not nervous about this year. Her husband does exterior lighting and she does Christmas trees and other interior decorations for primary residences and many rentals. She started designing trees for local lodges in 1994 and as she’s grown, the exterior element came naturally.

Considering her clientele, Gillin said she’s less worried about this year.

"As long as people are coming to town, they want trees and lights," she said. "Normally I don’t get calls before Halloween, and this year I’ve had a few and it’s not slowing down."


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