PPL Holiday lights have been a part of the season for nearly 90 years
Each holiday season, festive lights and displays brighten the windows of homes and businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley, however none have lasted as long – or been as visible as PPL’s holiday light display in Allentown.
The annual display features a Christmas tree that illuminates the east-facing side of the PPL Tower building located on the corner of Ninth and Hamilton Street. A flickering candle lights up its west-facing side. Both displays are 12 stories tall and can be seen from miles away on a clear winter night.
A holiday tradition
Each year on the eve of Thanksgiving, the two displays usher in the holiday season as they have done for generations. The holiday lights are estimated to have started as early as the 1930’s, shortly after the PPL Tower building opened.
The holiday display became a fixture in downtown Allentown until 1972, when an energy crisis prompted the company to suspend the annual tradition for nearly two decades.
Innovation and sustainability
The holiday lighting program resumed in 1990 with colored shades and fluorescent lighting that was much more energy-efficient than the incandescent lights that had been used in previous years.
In the early days, certain offices with windows in the design would be told to leave their lights on so that the color would shine through. The holiday display is now controlled by a timer which turns all lights on precisely at 5 p.m. each night and turns them off at 8 a.m. the following morning.
In 2013, the company switched to all LED lights on specially designed window shades, saving about 50% on energy costs and reducing maintenance. That switch enabled another change — adding an ornament to the top of the tree that slowly changes color and a flickering flame on the candle. The current iteration of the display features 660 linear feet of LED light fixtures that hold a combined 10,000 lights.