Wrapping Trees with LED Christmas Lights
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 don't have time to do anything elaborate. However, this past weekend I decorated a small tree in the courtyard of our home with some of our warm white single mold wide angle 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 trees is either 4" or 6". Professional decorators generally prefer 6" spacing and that is what we offer on all of our popular wide angle LED Christmas lights. However, sometimes 6" spacing does not work well when wrapping trees with very small trunks or small branches. For example, if you use a 6" spaced light set to wrapped a tree with a 12" circumference you will have a single line of lights running down opposite sides of the tree. This doesn't look very good. (However, sometimes you can create cool designs on trees using multiple sets of 6" spaced lights.) Generally speaking, I think its easiest to wrap small trees with light sets that are spaced 4" or less. On the other hand, I think (and most professional decorators agree) that 6" spacing is best for trees with an average circumference of 14" or more.
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 decided 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 may not be exactly perfect so I would recommend rounding up to the nearest light set then adding one additional light set to be sure.
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 wide angle, mini light, and the G12. The C6 is also an option but its inferior to the others for this application. Among these choices, the wide angle LED is by far the best choice. The wide angle lens was specifically engineered to evenly diffuse LED light which is highly directional. While the mini light and G12 provide decent light diffusion the wide angle is superior. So, unless you really like the mini lights or the G12 I would strongly encourage you to choose the wide angle LED. The wide angle lights will produce a light that is uniformly bright from all angles. Other bulbs styles may produce spots that appear dim or brighter from certain angles.
Once you have selected your bulb style its 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.) White wire isn't a good choice since the wire will stand out too much and be visible during the day and even when the lights are illuminated as it will reflect the light. Green or brown wire are the best choices. Brown wire looks especially good when wrapping palm trees. Green wire generally works very well on trees with darker bark and we have a wide selection of light colors with green wire.
After you have selected the best wire color, its time to choose your color. While color is totally up to you its important to consider the effect you want to created when selecting a color (or colors.) White LED Christmas lights are the best choice for a more conservative and traditional look and can be used year-round without looking too Christmassy. We offer three colors of white Christmas lights: warm white, frosted warm white, and pure white. Warm white is very similar in color to traditional incandescent clear. Frosted warm white is the same color as warm white but utilizes a frosted or opaque lens which softens the light a bit more. Pure white is the crispest and brightest of the white colors we offer. (For a more detailed discussion about choosing the best white Christmas lights check out this article. Warm white or frosted warm white will create a nice warm glowing ambient light with the frosted warm white being a little less intense. Pure white is vibrant and crisp and can really brighten up a landscape and will really "pop". (If you live in a part of the country where you there is generally snow on the ground during the winter months, pure white looks really great reflecting off fresh snow. Pure white is also great when mixed with blue, red, or green.)
If you want to use some color, green, red, or multi-color are all good choices for traditional Christmas holiday displays. 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. Its is widely accepted that light color affects human mood. Blue is calming and represents peach, tranquility, and harmony which are all good holiday themes. Blue is also a good winter color. Green represents nature, renewal, good luck, and spring. Orange is a warm color that expresses energy and grabs attention. Orange is also an obvious 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.
Finally, if you decide to use more than one color, be sure to make sure the colors are complimentary. Most colors will look just fine with white. We also carry a wide selection of multi-color LED Christmas lights in addition to the traditional red, orange, blue, yellow and green set.
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 source at the base of the tree. In most cases, this will mean simply running an extension cord to the base of the tree. However, if you are wrapping a very large tree with a lot of lights you may need to run a separate power source to the base of the tree that is on a different circuit. (You can safely operate a total of 220 watts on one standard 15 amp household circuit. Most LED Christmas lights consume about .06 watts per bulb. Using our standard 50 light wide angle set as an example, you can connect a total of 43 sets end to end.)
- 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 move and sway which can stretch the wire and loosen the lights so some times it makes sense to take additional measures. Additionally, if you are wrapping a growing tree and plan to leave the lights up for an extended period or during the growing season you don't want to wrap the lights too tightly or they could be damaged. To address this issue, some installers use staple guns or u-shaped nails. You should only need a few staples or nails to keep the lights in place so don't go overboard and risk damaging the tree. You could also try using some adhesive type fasteners.
*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 its pretty close.