Mounting Devices – Tree Mounts
Last article we looked at ground mounts, so in this article we will explore tree mounts. The practice of mounting lights in trees goes back for centuries. Lanterns hung in trees have created festive atmospheres for people of all walks of life. Electric lights in trees have their origin from the 30’s when Frank B Nightingalebegan manufacturing 120v landscape lighting. Nightingale created several downlights specifically manufactured to hang in trees. Mounting fixtures in trees will provide beautiful moon lighting and strategic up lighting effects. This practice can also be challenging. The correct mounting system will lessen the challenge, especially if you focus take the application, type and weight of the fixture into consideration each time.
Threaded Tree Spike – This mount is a single treaded mounting spike for installing lights into trees. This spike has a ½ inch NPT thread with a wire pass through hole on the side. There is a 5/16” hex head on the inside to allow an installer to rachet or drill it into the bark. This spike is made of stainless steel and has a standoff over 3”. Since there is only one wood screw for this mount it is much less likely to cause an infection to the tree. This is a very clean and easy way to mount a fixture into a tree.
Mounting Canopies - Most manufacturers offer some style of mounting canopy. They are normally round with 3 mounting holes for screws and a fixture thread in the middle. A small cut out on the side is provided through which to pass the cable. This style requires the use of wood screws to mount. Use caution when using this mount. Be sure the cable is not pinched when installing. This could cause a secondary breaker on the transformer to trip. Some manufacturers also offer this mount with a bungee option. The rubber bungee will be used instead of the screws to fasten the unit to the tree.
Tree Boxes - Some contractors prefer a tree box mount. The tree box mount allows the user to make their cable connection in a dry junction box on the ground. An ample amount of cable can be attached to reach the mounting point. Tree boxes are manufactured in two different styles. One type is a single L- shaped box with a cover, with staggered holes on either side for the standoff screws to be inserted. A strain relief connector is inserted at the bottom and a ½” threaded outlet is ready to accept the fixture. Two-piece styles have a mounting plate that can be strapped or screwed into the tree in the correct position for installation. Both styles can accept more than one fixture with the use of a wye fitting. Some mounting covers will accept up to 3 fixtures at a time.
Tree Ring Mounting Systems - A tree ring allows a contractor to mount a multiple number of fixtures in a tree at a single point. This mount is primarily used for commercial applications. The unit normally consists of two half circles of aluminum, brass or composite material. Some are equipped with a hinge or a two- bolt point opening. Compression rods are mounted around the inner circle. The rods can adjust to the girth of the trunk, without puncturing the bark. It is common to see a junction box mounted to the side of the ring. This allows for a clean central point connection and a place to connect the main cable from the transformer. Tree-ring mounting systems are manufactured in a variety of different sizes. The most common will hold 4 to 6 fixtures at a time. It is important to consult with the manufacturer on the weight limits per ring.
Mounting lights in trees is often met with controversy because they put some stress on a tree. When in doubt, consult with your customer’s arborist. It is a good practice to exercise caution when mounting fixtures into trees. Avoid trees with thorns and powerlines running through them. Be sure to invest in the proper safety equipment and climbing gear to keep your installation safe. Don’t forget to include extension ladder and manlift rental charges into your bid. All the tree mounts that were discussed in this article can be very effective for your lighting designs. If you need assistance in selecting a product, contact your local distributor or manufacturer representative.