How many light strings do I need to wrap my tree?
Trees size, light string style, personal taste, and budget will determine how many sets are required to wrap a tree. Use a cord or a sample string of lights to install a small section of lights. Use the length of the cord or wiring used multiplied by how many turns or sections of the tree will be lit. Use this number to estimate how many sets of lights to order. Keep reading for more information.
We've all seen tree trunks wrapped for Christmas, weddings, and events. They are truly glorious. LED light strings with specifications allowing 100's feet of light to be run on a single outlet have revolutionized the density and number of lights that can be installed.
But how many light strings will I really need?
We have tried to create a formula called in programmers, using graduate-level mathematic skills. Ultimately, we found that this question can best be answered with a rope, a measuring tape, and a tree. As an alternative, use a string of lights that you have handy.
The reason we're going old school on this approximation is taste and style. Qualities that no super-computer can define.
Some folks choose to wrap tight. Some wrap loosely.
Only you know what kind of wrapper you are.
A quick way to calculate how many feet of lights are needed to wrap a tree trunk
Here is our setup:
We are using a tree that has roughly an 18-inch diameter. We won't need to use that number for any calculations, but I thought it might be suitable for reference. It is a pretty reasonably sized sample tree. Not too small. Not too big.
Step 1. Mark off 12 inches on the tree trunk in question with the painter's tape. (Chalk would be equally useful.)
Step 2. Make a mark on the tape with the sharpie at the same places on the top and bottom tape. David thought this was unnecessary, but it's nice to easily see the beginning and end of the spiral.
Step 3. Use the cord to wrap the tree with the rope in the same way you'd wrap a set of lights, adjusting the spiral to reflect how much light you want to see on the tree.
This wrapping resulted in 6 inches of distance between the spirals. This spacing is a good choice for larger trees.
Step 4. After winding the cord at a 6-inch spiral between the tape spaced 12 inches apart, we marked the cord with tape and measured the total length of the cord used.
The length of the cord for a 6-inch spaced spiral is 11 feet!
We decided to wrap the tree again but spaced the spirals 4 inches apart. This distance is commonly used in commercial applications where intense lighting is the goal.
Here is what that looked like:
We measured again. The length of the cord this time was 23 feet.
Once the distance required to light a foot of the tree trunk is measured, just multiply that number in feet by the height of the tree trunk.
In our examples, let's see how many feet of lights are needed to light 10 feet of the tree trunk.
For roughly 6 inches between spirals
11 feet of lights x 10 feet of tree = 110 feet of lights which is 6 - 7 strings of LED lights spaced 4 inches apart
This installation can be lit with either glass or LED if any circuit does not exceed 210 watts.
For roughly 4 inches between spirals
28 feet of lights x 10 feet of tree = 280 feet of lights which is about 17 strings of LED lights
This installation could be glass with a splitter installed after the first 10 sets, with 10 sets running in series and 7 sets running in series from the other side of the splitter. Seventeen LED strings could be run in series without splitters.
Guidelines for choosing lights
Choose the right spacing based on size of tree, desired look, available power, and budget.
- Standard spacing for glass mini lights strings are 2.5, 4, and 6 inches. LED Mini lights are spaced 4 and 6 inches apart.
- Glass mini lights cannot run more than 500 bulbs in series before a splitter is introduced into the installation.
- LED light strings can be connected 100's of feet in series. Check the specification of the light strings for the maximum number of sets that can be installed end to end.
- Use the total length of the light strings, including the "head" and "tail," which is the measure of wire between the plug and the first bulb.
- Add 10% or at least an extra string of lights to projects to account for irregularities in the tree trunk.
- The greater the distance between bulbs, the more economical the installation. More wire per light is a good choice for more giant trees. A smaller distance between bulbs can be a good choice for smaller tree trunks on smaller trees.
Ultimately, the choice will be determined by:
- Electrical supply
- Size of trees and trunks
We've put this post together pretty quickly at the height of the Christmas season. We've made it simple and hope it is a good place to start.
More tips coming soon!
Look for more photos showing trees wrapped with different lights, bulb spacings, and trees.
While we can't define how many lights you'll need precisely with a computer program, the number can be tailored to every tree and every taste.