Let's face it. Installing or removing light poles, especially those found in tight spaces, can be a headache for the electrical contractor as well as the groundskeeper whose meticulously landscaped terrain your boom truck tires are rolling over — not to mention the money you've shelled out to rent or buy and maintain that expensive piece of equipment.
That's where electrical technician Jay Sorensen's brainchild — the PoleJack — comes into play. This one-man light pole installation device was designed with the help of Sorensen's brother, Dale, who has a background in mechanics and metals. After four years of research and three prototypes, the pair finally came up with a design that met their expectations and passed testing by a state-certified engineer.
The PoleJack can handle up to 30-foot-tall light poles mounted on nontapered concrete bases. It is built on a portable dolly platform, so an individual can pull it over landscaped areas, down bicycle paths in city parks, around swimming pools, and many other areas where you can't take a truck or crane without damaging the terrain, explains Dale. And it's lightweight and small enough to be transported to and from job sites in the back of a pickup truck.
To operate the PoleJack, the technician must first clamp the unit to the concrete support. Once secure, he can then lift the pole up and set it in place by simply turning the device's gear drive with a cordless drill.
Chris Muniz, owner of Denver-based Noble Electric, was recently given the opportunity to use a PoleJack to install 20- and 30-foot-tall light poles in parking lots. “Our other option is to get a PoleCat out there, and hang the poles that way,” says Muniz, who maintains the PoleJack is a much more cost-effective solution.
The Sorensens have struck a deal with Maxis, a three-year-old company that develops tools for the electrical industry, to sell the product to large and small companies starting in November.
Most small companies can't afford to own a crane or a boom truck, so they typically rent one on a project-by-project basis. But with a retail price of $4,300, Maxis executives believe many of these companies could afford to own the PoleJack. And though larger companies may already own cranes and boom trucks for such projects, the PoleJack may prove more cost-effective for smaller projects.
Although the unit is marketed for single-person operation, the Sorensens concede that 30-foot steel poles — unlike shorter aluminum ones — would probably require a two-man crew. Muniz agrees, not just because of the weight of the pole, but also because of wiring issues. “You have to fish the wire up at the same time you lower the pole,” he says. “One guy has to run the gears with the drill and lower the pole. Then somebody's got to grab the wire and get it into the hand-hole so that it doesn't get skinned or crushed by the pole as it's coming down.”
Muniz also notes that although the PoleJack would be ideal for most of his jobs, it does have some limitations. The surface where the pole will be mounted must be level, and the concrete base has to be tall enough — about 2 feet or 3 feet above the ground for the device to work as designed. There also has to be enough room to lay the pole down. “If you're on the side of the highway or somewhere where you couldn't really lay the pole down, you're going to have problems,” he says. “But in parking lot situations, you can definitely hang poles all day.”
Weight: 320 lbs.
Length: 70 in.
Width: 33 in.
Height folded: 28 in.
Height extended: 84 in.
Used with: Cordless or powered 1/2 in. drill
30 ft pole: 300 lbs
25 ft pole: 350 lbs
20 ft pole: 450 lbs