Light poles are found just about everywhere you go but most people don’t give them much thought. Tall and slender, they are used to illuminate the outdoors at night. They do this by allowing lighting fixtures to be mounted up high so that they can cast light to a wide area. They usually range from 20 to 40 feet in height.
Street and parking lot lights are designed to provide bright and effective illumination for large outdoor areas. They offer lighting solutions for a variety of location types which include parking lots, highways, residential streets, and pathways.
Although light poles appear to be simply designed, they have multiple components that contribute to their functionality and safety.
Types of Light Poles
Before we detail their various components, let’s first understand the basic types of light poles.
Light Pole Materials
There are five common types of materials that can be used to construct light poles:
Wood poles are very common and inexpensive. They are easy to install.
They are relatively lightweight and non-conductive.
However, they have issues with decay, fire resistance, and termite infestation. They do not have a long lifespan.
Concrete poles are strong and resistant to wind, rot, and fire.
They are relatively inexpensive and can be constructed locally.
However, they are extremely heavy and can be difficult to handle.
Steel poles are very strong and durable.
They can handle high winds and support multiple attached fixtures.
However, they are conductive to electricity and susceptible to corrosion.
Aluminum poles are lightweight and high strength.
They are resistant to rust and can be used near coastal areas where salt water is a consideration.
They have a long lifespan of 50 years or more.
However, they are not fire-resistant and are expensive.
Fiberglass poles are very lightweight yet strong and durable.
They are non-conductive and resistant to corrosion and rust.
They have a longer lifespan than steel but shorter than aluminum, usually around 20 to 30 years.
Square Poles vs Round Poles
As their names suggest, there are two types of light pole shapes, square and round. Square poles have four corners whereas round poles are cylindrical in shape. Round poles tend to be tapered so that the bottom of the pole has the widest diameter, and the top of the pole has the narrowest diameter.
Anchor-Based Poles vs Direct Burial Poles
Anchor-based poles are attached to a concrete foundation with anchor bolts, nuts, and washers.
Direct Burial poles (also called embedded poles) are installed by implanting the shaft into the ground. There are no concrete bases or anchor bolts required.
Hand-hole cover plates – These plates can be removed so that electricians are able maintain internal wiring.
Base covers and plates – Base covers enclose the exposed anchor bolts and nuts. Base plates provide a point of contact with the concrete foundation.
Pole caps – These caps cover the top of the pole if lights and/or brackets are not mounted there.
Anchor bolts and washers are used to secure anchor-based light poles to their foundation.
For a 20-foot pole, bolts should be ¾ inch in diameter and 17 inches long w/ a 3-inch j-hook.
For a 30- to 40-foot pole, bolts should be 1 inch in diameter and 36 inches long.
Anchor bolt sizes will vary depending on many factors. These factors include pole height, wind conditions, location, soil composition, and weight on top of the pole.
Vibration dampers – These dampers can be used to absorb harmonic cycles in the post. They are recommended for when security cameras are attached to the pole.
Side brackets – These brackets can be added for additional lights that are focused on different areas like building facades.
Electrical outlets – Outlets are added to provide power for additional temporary lighting such as holiday lights. This eliminates the need for additional wires to or from the pole.
Banner brackets – These brackets are used to hang banners for advertising and events.
PVC conduit – Conduit is used to run electrical wiring inside the pole.
Tenons – a cylinder-shaped module that is affixed to the top of a pole. This attachment allows for a light or pole bracket to be installed.
Most tenons are 2⅜ inches in diameter. 3- and 4-inch options are available.
Most tenons are used to attach bullhorn brackets or spoke brackets.
Adaptors are available if the pole doesn’t have a tenon.
Who knew that there were so many parts to something so simple as a light pole? Knowing their associated components is just the start. Please see our other blog articles about purchasing, installing, and maintaining light poles.
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About the Author
Neil Peterson is Chief Operating Officer at LED Lighting Supply. He has been active in the LED industry for over 10 years and is responsible for product planning and management as well as revenue and operations at LED Lighting Supply. Much of Neil’s time is focused on customer engagement for large commercial and industrial lighting requirements. When not working, he enjoys family time, camping, fishing, and sports..