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Old 08-26-2013, 09:18 PM   #1
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Tree Lights


Lately I've found myself having more parties than usual. And the first party I strapped some clamp fixtures to trees for lighting and ran some extension cords through the branch. Yeah yeah, I know. It worked for a year and now it's finally falling apart. Ugly too!

I'd like to do it right and light up my 1/2 acre woods with some flood lights. I decided to do fluorescent since I don't want hot lights in the woods.

These are the units I'm using (4 of them)
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Lithonia-...0#.UhwKtZKTj2Y

Few: questions

1) I will be running 14/2 UF cable (approx 300ft of it) 12" down, off of a 15 amp GFCI breaker from a subpanel in my shed. This will act as the switch also since they are only used for parties, no photocell. Coming up on each tree, I will have 1/2" PVC conduit lightly nailed to the tree and the J-box for the light? This sound correct?

2) How high off the ground should I mount the fixtures on the tree for decent lighting?

Thanks all!

I'm located in New Jersey BTW.

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Old 08-27-2013, 06:44 AM   #2
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I honestly would just put some posts in the ground and mount the fixtures and wiring method to that.

4x4x16 posts are readily available. Put them 2-3' in the ground with some concrete. This would give you a height of 13-14' which would be good.

Lights don't need to be GFI protected unless your just doing this for burial depth.

Although the code doesn't prohibit it, I don't recommend installing things on vegetation because, the tree grows but the conduit/wire doesn't.

I've even seen, with cable, the tree growing around the cable and snapping it in half.

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Old 08-27-2013, 07:13 AM   #3
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Pls look up some voltage drop tables. With 300' of line you surely will have some drop along the way.

Now with lighting the voltage drop may be acceptable to you, but a future person or use might come along.

You will almost certainly need 12 gauge wire...even perhaps 10 gauge.

Google voltage drop calculator to get an answer, and to do it right.
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Old 08-27-2013, 07:13 AM   #4
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Be sure to consider whether such an increase in night time lighting is going to be a problem with you neighbors. That and make sure your local code allows for it. No point getting off to a bad start, right? That and I wouldn't think the kind of light that fixture would put out would be all that great for a party atmosphere.

I second the notion of avoid conduit on the trees for the same growth reason. If anything run them to a nearby junction box and use a separate run up the tree. That way you'd at least be able to repair it without as much work should the tree's growth be a problem.
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Old 08-27-2013, 07:34 AM   #5
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Have you considered using Low Voltage? There are some nice Par 36 fixtures that will provide good light and can be mounted in the trees. And you don't have a lot of the issues you have with Line Voltage.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:49 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by wirenut1110 View Post
I honestly would just put some posts in the ground and mount the fixtures and wiring method to that.

4x4x16 posts are readily available. Put them 2-3' in the ground with some concrete. This would give you a height of 13-14' which would be good.

Lights don't need to be GFI protected unless your just doing this for burial depth.

Although the code doesn't prohibit it, I don't recommend installing things on vegetation because, the tree grows but the conduit/wire doesn't.

I've even seen, with cable, the tree growing around the cable and snapping it in half.
I would do the posts, but there are plenty of trees around (it's kinda in the woods) and I wanted it to look earthy still. Also, I have no way to transport a 16 ft piece of wood home...

The GFCI protection is for the burial depth. Me vs. the roots from all the trees. And also the way I look at it, the GFCI shouldn't trip if there isn't a problem anyway.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:52 AM   #7
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Even with GFCI protection, burial depth is 12 inches.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:54 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by herdfan View Post
Have you considered using Low Voltage? There are some nice Par 36 fixtures that will provide good light and can be mounted in the trees. And you don't have a lot of the issues you have with Line Voltage.
I like this idea
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:58 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by RoyalAcresRod View Post
Pls look up some voltage drop tables. With 300' of line you surely will have some drop along the way.

Now with lighting the voltage drop may be acceptable to you, but a future person or use might come along.

You will almost certainly need 12 gauge wire...even perhaps 10 gauge.

Google voltage drop calculator to get an answer, and to do it right.
For a few 65 watt fixtures, no outlets, 14 gauge would do fine. I'd get 116 volts at the end of the line. 300ft of cable is already expensive. Not looking to double the costs when they'll still work just fine.

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Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post
Be sure to consider whether such an increase in night time lighting is going to be a problem with you neighbors. That and make sure your local code allows for it. No point getting off to a bad start, right? That and I wouldn't think the kind of light that fixture would put out would be all that great for a party atmosphere.

I second the notion of avoid conduit on the trees for the same growth reason. If anything run them to a nearby junction box and use a separate run up the tree. That way you'd at least be able to repair it without as much work should the tree's growth be a problem.
Not worried about the neighbors. We are pretty deep in the woods, but that's why I'm getting these lights to angle downward. They'll survive till 11pm once in a while. We've been living here for 30 years...They are only being used for parties which we need bright light for BBQ'ing and games. Not really atmosphere. As far as code, I don't know of any code in my area that deals with outdoor lightning. Nor could I care. I'd like to use my property to it's full extent which means into the night brightly. Doesn't mean I don't want a slop job done though. I'd like to not visit the lights for at least 5 years.

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Have you considered using Low Voltage? There are some nice Par 36 fixtures that will provide good light and can be mounted in the trees. And you don't have a lot of the issues you have with Line Voltage.
My experience with low voltage has been horrible. Bulbs blew, transformers blowing, having to up-size for volt drop, and fixtures shorting out. I only need to dig once and be good for 10 years for the line voltage. For low voltage, just a decent reliable transformer is well over $200 for the purpose I'd need it for.
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:55 AM   #10
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Better check the codes in your area !
Some places don't allow light fixtures on vegetation.
Posts would be a better option !
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:54 AM   #11
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they make plastic posts that go into the ground and have 1/2" threads on top ... cause you need a water proof fixture ...next look at LED ... florescent does not start well in cold ...
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Old 08-28-2013, 11:58 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by CanIDoIt? View Post
For a few 65 watt fixtures, no outlets, 14 gauge would do fine. I'd get 116 volts at the end of the line. 300ft of cable is already expensive. Not looking to double the costs when they'll still work just fine.
#14 is really pushing it. Your maximum load that can be expected to work properly is about 5A. If you use 14-3 cable and a two pole breaker, you'll have twice the capacity for about 1/3 more cost.
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:22 PM   #13
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My experience with low voltage has been horrible.
Mine has been the opposite. However, this good experience has come after a few lessons learned:

a) use decent quality fixtures and lamp bases. Use anti-corrosion grease.
b) get rid of those stupid pierce point connectors. These WILL fail in a year or so. Solder (or equivalent) and properly seal all connections.
c) use LED lamps. (I have not had a failure yet, four years, several dozen bulbs.) A side benefit is that LED lamps are, generally, less sensitive (to a point) to variance in voltage.

I like the idea of using low voltage fixtures, but would probably not take this option if one is looking for lighting levels like a parking lot or baseball stadium. These are best used for mood/ambience.
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:53 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
Better check the codes in your area !
Some places don't allow light fixtures on vegetation.
Posts would be a better option !
How would I be able to tell if they allow it? I know code prohibits using vegetation to support spans of wire, but they allow lighting/the similar to be installed on it. My town never states anything about which code they use. Just to "follow" the general code... I've seen plenty of outlets, fixtures, even saw a panel mounted on a tree at a local park...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philly Master View Post
they make plastic posts that go into the ground and have 1/2" threads on top ... cause you need a water proof fixture ...next look at LED ... florescent does not start well in cold ...
LED is still too iffy and expensive for my liking. The fluorescent says it'll start below zero. On the other hand, I won't need them below 50*F. I won't be having parties then...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpoulton View Post
#14 is really pushing it. Your maximum load that can be expected to work properly is about 5A. If you use 14-3 cable and a two pole breaker, you'll have twice the capacity for about 1/3 more cost.
I checked. My local store doesn't carry 14/3 UF 500. Only 10/3 250ft. Or 14/2 500ft. I'm only running 3a of lights. Nothing else. So I'm not too concerned on that. I have no plans of ever installing outlets or anything else out there...

Quote:
Originally Posted by oberkc View Post
Mine has been the opposite. However, this good experience has come after a few lessons learned:

a) use decent quality fixtures and lamp bases. Use anti-corrosion grease.
b) get rid of those stupid pierce point connectors. These WILL fail in a year or so. Solder (or equivalent) and properly seal all connections.
c) use LED lamps. (I have not had a failure yet, four years, several dozen bulbs.) A side benefit is that LED lamps are, generally, less sensitive (to a point) to variance in voltage.

I like the idea of using low voltage fixtures, but would probably not take this option if one is looking for lighting levels like a parking lot or baseball stadium. These are best used for mood/ambience.
To do the LED lighting though with decent parts would be more expensive though. I have the time to do the line voltage, and the skill, but I just don't have the money to spend on low voltage cabling, then fixtures, then the transformer. I'd need a lot of smaller fixtures to cover my property. Plus I rather have the brightness if I need it. I can always split the circuit into 2 for lighting moods...
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:09 PM   #15
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For a temporary arrangement, I would be using flexable conduit,
Are you wanting to put cables under ground or flown thru tree's.

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