Wrapping Trees with LED Christmas LightsNovember 4, 2010
I have not written much about decorating with LED Christmas lights because I am far from an expert and honestly have very little experience. Everyone thinks because I am in the Christmas lighting business I must have a large beautiful Christmas light display but I am usually so busy leading up to Christmas that I barely have time to get the tree up. However, this past weekend I decorated a small tree in the courtyard of our home with some of our warm white wide angle single mold LED Christmas lights. The lights look great, and I did okay on the installation, but after this trial run and speaking to one of our Christmas light installer customers I think I’ll redo it so it looks a little better. Here a few things that I learned about wrapping trees with LED Christmas lights:
Preparation and Measuring Are Key
As with almost any project it makes a lot of sense and usually produces a much better end product if you spend a little time planning. When wrapping trees with Christmas lights the first thing you need to know for planning is the diameter and height of the tree trunk that you will be wrapping. You need these measurements for 2 reasons: 1) in order to know how many light sets you will need; and 2.) in order to select the right bulb spacing. Most sets of Christmas lights come with 4″, 6″ or 12″ bulb spacing. The 12″ spacing sets are usually best for roof lines and is generally on found in C7 or C9 type Christmas lights. C7 and C9s are not ideal for wrapping tree trunks and 12″ spacing won’t work well unless you were wrapping the trunk of a Sequoia or Giant Redwood tree. The best spacing for wrapping most trees will be either 4″ or 6″. Once you have measured the circumference of the tree trunk the next step is to measure the height of the trunk. After you have measured the height of the trunk you need to decide how far apart to space the lights vertically on the trunk. The closer you space the lights vertically the more lights you will have on the tree and the more light you will need. For most applications spacing the lights 2″-4″ apart will give you good light coverage. Now that you have determined the circumference, height, and desired vertical spacing you can calculate the total number of light sets that you will need. To determine the number of light sets you will need use the following formula:
(Height/Vertical Spacing) x (Average Circumference) = Total Number of Lighted Feet
While this formula should give you a pretty accurate measurement it will not be exact. I would recommend rounding up to the nearest light set, and having an extra set (or two), never hurts either.
Selecting the Right LED Christmas Lights
LED Christmas lights come in a variety of bulbs styles. For a good overview of the bulb styles we offer please check out our LED Christmas Lights Shopping Guide. Generally speaking, smaller profile bulbs are better for wrapping trees. The best string lights for wrapping trees are the 5MM wide angle, and the G12 bulb shapes.
The M5 mini light LEDs, and the C6 bulb shapes, are also an option, but their elongated shape and pointed tip can get caught while wrapping, and are not as easy to work with. Once you have selected your bulb style it is time to consider light and wire color. We offer white LED Christmas lights in green wire, brown wire and white wire. (We also have some colors in black wire.) Select your wire color based on what you are wrapping the lights on:
Green wire will work for almost all applications, but if you are looking for something to blend in more, select brown wire for tree trunks or deck railings, or white wire for fences or pillars. After you have selected the best wire color for your application, it is time to choose your bulb color. While color is totally up to you it is important to consider the effect you want to create when selecting a color (or colors). In addition to the obvious considerations, such as the holiday or event you are decorating for, it is also wise to consider the affect that the light color will have on your observers. It is widely accepted that light color affects human mood. Blue is calming and represents peace, tranquility, and harmony, which are all good holiday themes. Green represents nature, renewal, good luck, and spring. Orange is a warm color that expresses energy and grabs attention, and is also an great choice for autumn holidays. Purple has become one of our more popular colors and represents royalty, spirituality, mystery and enlightenment. Red is the most energetic of all the colors and grabs the most attention while also representing love and other strong emotions. Yellow represents joy, happiness, and imagination. Spend some time thinking about the general mood or feeling you want to convey and then select the appropriate color.
Last But Not Least: Installing the Lights
Hopefully you continued reading this article (or at least scanning) far enough to get to this section. There are really only a few things you need to worry about when wrapping a tree trunk with Christmas lights.
- Power Source: You need to make sure that you have an adequate power, and a way to get power to each tree. In most cases, this will mean simply running an extension cord to each tree you are decorating. However, if you are wrapping a very large tree with a lot of lights you may need to run a second extension cord, or have a triple tap so you have multiple plug-ins (you can plug up to 45 sets of 50L or 70L LEDs end-to-end, or a total of 216 watts).
- Professional Installers Tip: Run your extension cord up the tree, to the crotch of the tree, and then drop it back down to the height you are going to start/stop your lights (highest lighted point on the trunk). This will keep your electrical connection off the ground and out of snow/water/moisture.
- Spacing Measurement: Wrapped trees look best if the spacing is uniform. Before you begin wrapping the lights, take a measuring tape and mark the tree with a marker at your spacing intervals to give you some reference points when wrapping the lights around the tree.
- Keeping the Lights in Place: It is important when wrapping the lights to take certain steps to make sure the lights stay in place and don’t slide down the tree. If you are careful to be sure to wrap the lights tightly around the tree, friction should keep them in place fairly well. However, trees do move and sway in the wind, which can stretch the wire and loosen the lights.
- Professional Installers Tip: Start at the “top” of the trunk, or your highest lighted point – wrap down the tree, keeping your wraps twice as far apart as your desired final spacing (end result of 3” vertical spacing – wrap down the tree with your wraps 6” apart – When you get to the bottom, or lowest lighted point, you will wrap around the trunk and start wrapping back up the tree – Make sure your wraps going back up the tree are crossing over (XXX) your original wraps, and are not candy caning (//////) your original wraps. (When you cross back over the original wraps, this will give you X’s every 3”) – This will give you a much fuller look, will keep the lights in place, and will look more uniform even if all your wraps are not exactly the same distance apart.
*The picture in this article features a tree trunk which is approximately 30″ in circumference and 4′ tall. I used 3 sets of our single mold warm white wide angle LED Christmas lights for this installation. I am a novice photographer so it is not a great picture nor a perfect representation of the light color, but it is pretty close.