Trees shouldn’t grow close to or touch power lines. It is not safe to have tree limbs touching power lines. The same is true for secondary or service power lines. With the caution that’s needed and the potential danger or destruction from working on trees near power lines, the main rule is, call the utility company, your municipality or a professional. Don’t think this is ok for the DIY category.
Are Tree Limbs Touching Power Lines Hazardous?
Trees contacting or growing too near electric lines are very dangerous. This situation can cause a fire if electricity sparks from the line to a branch. It can cause a power outage to the area. It can cause personal injury or death, even to someone standing too close to the tree which is touching or close to the line as electricity can jump from the tree to the person.
If your tree or plant is too near a power line, do not try to climb, trim or prune it yourself. This goes for a primary, secondary or service line.
Even with trees near power lines, children should not climb them or play close to them. A branch or leaves could make contact with a wire if someone is climbing, and moving part of, the tree.
Can Electricity Pass Through Trees?
Yes, live trees and dead trees can conduct electricity from touching or being too close to a power line. Live trees can conduct electricity at any time and they are actually very good conductors. Electricity can instantly travel from branches to the ground. Dead trees aren’t good conductors unless there’s moisture involved, on the tree. Water always adds to the potential of electricity traveling through a tree.
What Happens When a Power Line Touches a Tree?
An electric current can pass from a power line, or lightning, through any small part of a tree to the ground. The electricity passes even better, with more force and heat, through water or moisture. Steam or sap can boil and erupt, and it’ll destroy bark and branches, and likely anything or anyone else in contact with the tree. Anything or anyone touching the tree at the time will also conduct the electricity. The power will impact the person or thing the same as the tree.
What About a Tree Limb Being Close to a Power Line?
This is a little less likely, but still a certain danger, of electrocution or damage from electricity contacting the tree.
A voltage surge on the power line, especially for instance with a lightning strike, can transmit electricity through the nearby tree. Arcing electricity from the line to the tree can still cause a fire or an electrocution.
In windy, stormy, snowy or icy conditions, a moving or sagging limb can make contact with the power line.
Another danger is from thinking you can cut back or prune the tree because it’s close, but not touching, the line. Using ladders or long-handled cutting tools may be an added danger. You, the tree or a tool could make accidental contact with the electric line.
Do Not Trim a Tree Touching or Near a Power Line
It is not safe to touch, cut, prune or trim a tree touching or close to a power line. You could be electrocuted. Just touching a branch, or touching a branch with a tool or ladder, can cause a injury or death.
The voltage of a typical power line is 100 times or more greater than a home’s main current. And a home current, generally at 120 volts, is a dangerous level of electricity.
According to government regulations, you must remain at least 10 feet from power lines when doing any work.
What About Secondary or Service Lines?
Doing any work near a secondary power line or a home’s service line can be just as dangerous as near a main utility line. Be just as aware and cautious with trees or shrubs near a service line.
A common electric switch in a house has 120 volts and 10-20 amps. A common service line into a building has 240 volts and 20 or more amps.
With the wrong circumstances or situation, any electric shock, even in a home with a simple current, can be dangerous or fatal. Fortunately, in a home, it’s usually easy, and fast, to break the electric current (you are grounded) if you get a shock. If you are in a tree or on a ladder, you aren’t grounded, and an electric shock might be more harmful. Plus, the service line is a stronger current than anything in the house.
When to Call the Utility Company About Trees
When is it best to call for help with a tree, trees or growth on or near a power line? Don’t wait until it’s very dangerous or causing a major problem. You should call when:
- Limbs or parts of a tree are getting near electric lines
- Any part of a plant is touching a power line, even in the wind when snow or ice is making it touch
- A broken limb or downed tree is hanging on or touching a power line
One Last Check
Look up and around for any power lines, including service lines, before working on trees or plants. You should regularly inspect everything around your property to see if anything has gotten too close over the years. It’s important to know there’s no risk of being near a power line or making contact in anyway before starting any work or project. It’s important to know this before planting anything new.
If you have limbs or growth near power lines and have any questions, don’t take it on by yourself. The best decision is to call a utility company and/or an expert, insured tree professional. Make sure the pro is really a pro, with the right equipment and insurance. It also pays to know if the work on your property is covered by your insurance.
Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.