MoneySense Magazine, December/January 2013
Artificial intelligence: Best fake Christmas trees
Seasonal savings start with fake Christmas trees. We look for the models that can give you a merry and maintenance-free holiday.
This article was first published in the December/January 2013 issue of MoneySense.
There’s something to be said for the artificial Christmas tree. It’s cost-effective: as much as $400 cheaper than real trees over 10 years. It’s also cleaner: no needles to gather up, no water reservoir that leaks or spills all over the presents. And it’s less of a hazard: most artificial trees are fire-resistant, whereas real trees dry out, making them more likely to burn.
There are plenty of characteristics you need to consider if you’re on the hunt for faux festive foliage. For starters, purchase a tree with a long warranty, since you’ll want to use it for many years. Also, go with a pre-lit tree so you can skip the annual untangling-of-the-blessed-lights ritual (80 to 100 lights per foot is ideal to avoid that sparsely lit look). Finally, be sure to go with a high tip count (1,500 is an ideal starting point), so that your tree will have a full, healthy and realistic appearance.
We researched four artificial trees available from four Canadian retailers, searching for the best combination of price, quality and durability. Read on to find out which one deserves to deck your hall and which ones get a lump of coal.
Martha Stewart Living
Pre-Lit Sparkling Pine Tree
Home Depot ($289)
This may have the lowest price, but it doesn’t have the fewest features. In fact, this ample tree (7.5 ft. high and 5 ft. wide) is the only one with a foot-pedal light switch, giving it an edge in convenience. It has 750 clear lights, which is just the right number for a well-lit tree (100 lights per foot).
It also has the longest warranty: five years on the tree and two years on the lights. With 1,357 tips, it doesn’t appear as robust as some of the others, and the white-tipped pinecones and glitter-tipped branches might make the tree a bit dated. But given the low price, you may be able to justify replacing it more quickly.
Whole Home Noel
Convertible Pre-Lit Innsbrook Pine
“Convertible” in this case means the tree can be extended from 7.5 ft. to 9 ft., meaning it’s particularly suited to people who may move houses in the next few years and want something that would look good in small or large spaces.
With 1,837 tips, the Innsbrook isn’t the tip-count leader—it has substantially fewer than the Polygroup Scots Pine—but it has more than most. Its 800 clear lights also put it right in the recommended range: 88 lights per foot at 9 ft. This 50-in. wide conifer comes with a three-year warranty (the second longest of the trees featured here), covering both the tree and lights. Whole Home’s product ticks all the right holiday gift boxes.
7’ LED MP3 Music Tree
Canadian Tire ($450)
With just 304 multicoloured and white lights, this NOMA product falls far short of the other trees in terms of brightness (just 43 lights per foot), but certainly offers plenty of Christmas cheer: plug it into your MP3 player and the lights pulse in time to the music.
The tree has just 1,179 needle tips of varying length, so it may appear relatively thin compared with others on the market. The one-year warranty is short for a product meant to be used only once a year. The price is right, however, especially when you consider the added feature of the MP3 capability.
The Bay ($800)
With 6,031 realistic, soft-touch tips of varying length, this 7-ft. pine has the most needles by far, giving it a particularly hearty appearance. It has 1,300 tungsten mini lights, equating to 185 lights per foot—even more than the recommended baseline. The warranty lasts just one year, however, which is particularly short for a tree sporting such a high price tag.
The Scots Pine certainly isn’t the tallest option, but with a girth of 64 in., it’s the right choice for wide spaces. Sometimes a high price equates with high quality but in this instance the one-year warranty is worrisome.
The Martha Stewart Living Pre-Lit Sparkling Pine Tree has the longest warranty and it’s well lit. It isn’t as luxurious as some of the others reviewed, but overall we think it’s the best value.
MoneySense Magazine, December/January 2013