Trees and electric power lines are vital to society. They provide great benefits that are obvious like shade on a hot day, amazing colors in the fall or the ability to surf the internet and binge watch our favorite show. Trees provide additional benefits that are often unseen. They produce oxygen, filter pollutants, help prevent erosion, and control storm run-off. In urban settings, you need the right tree in the right spot.
Therefore, it’s important that trees and electrical power lines coexist. Trees and power lines can be friends. Problems in their relationship happen when weather gets involved. Heavy winds, ice, snow, cold temperatures and persistent wet soil cause damage. To prevent a bad breakup and permanent damage, we must be proactive in caring for trees around power lines.
Electric companies have systems in place for handling trees around power lines. The utility will make sure the homeowner and a contractor are involved in resolving any issues. In this article, I will explain how tree services and the power company work together. I will also discuss methods used by climbers and bucket operations for safe work around trees.
Homeowner Tips for Trees Next to Power-lines
Do you have a tree that looks like it’s too close to a power line? My first suggestion is don’t touch it, don’t go near it, don’t even think about going near it. I cannot say this enough, it is a matter of life and death.
On many electrical poles, the high voltage wires are on the top. Below are the communication wires and the house drop. House drops are the wires supplying electricity to the house. It is often carrying 240 volts of electricity. To put that into perspective that is twice the voltage going to your toaster or TV. It’s also more than your dryer or stove uses. The house drops have protecting shielding around the wires, but it is not insulation like on an extension cord. If you touch the house drop, the shielding will more than likely not protect you and you will probably die.
Therefore, I urge the importance of not performing work around powerlines. The professionals take many precautions and equipment for safe operations next to high voltage powerlines. This work is extremely risky, so please contact professionals to handle the work.
Another aspect to remember is now many neighborhoods have underground powerlines. Those lines are within 2 feet of the surface. So, before you decide to plant a tree or build a fence, it’s important to call Miss Utility. They will come and mark the lines for free. This could save you a lot of headache, expense and possibly your life.
It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is truly the case with trees and powerlines. Proper maintenance and planning can avoid tree damage and major problems. When planting, knowing the mature spread and height is vital for trees around utilities.
Perform routine visual inspections of your trees. If a tree limb is too close to a high voltage line, contact your power company. Your power provider will send out an expert to deem whether there is an issue. If needed, they will come out and clear the portion or temporarily shut off the power if need be. This will prevent damage caused by obvious dead or hanging branches during inclement weather. It is generally a good idea to have a tree company inspect and prune your trees every year for their overall health. If there is an issue, they can contact the power company for you.
Tree Climbing and Bucket Operation Next to Power lines
In the tree work industry, there is a certification called EHAP which stands for Electrical Hazard Awareness Program. It was created by the Tree Care Industry Association (TICA). This program teaches tree workers techniques how to work safely around powerlines.
For example, when climbing and pruning a tree, there must be careful planning. Positioning is key as well as confidence. We are taught to even manage the tail of our rope with a redirect, so the rope doesn’t touch the wire. We make smaller cuts when working over wires. Rigging is also an option so a limb can be hoisted up out of the tree instead of falling down.
Another option instead of climbing is using a bucket or cherry picker. These are great for getting the perfect position in a tree. Even the most challenging terrain can often be overcome with the right equipment. The power company has an amazing 4x4 bucket truck that almost look like a monster truck. Whether they are using a bucket or climbing, the workers are keen on safety, because one false move could be your last.
We also use specialized equipment. The pole saws are made of fiberglass and they are filled with foam. This limits the ability of the electricity to be conducted. Older fiberglass poles are not used because vertical cracks can be conductive. Buckets or aerial lifts used for tree care are also made from fiberglass. Bucket operators use fiberglass power poles that have a chainsaw attachment.
Trees can live and serve the community next to powerlines. The key is proper planning before planting and continued tree maintenance. GV Tree Service is no stranger to utility pruning or tree care next to powerlines. For 25 years the City of Manassas has been an Arbor Day “Tree City” and we are proud to care for the Utilities Tree Pruning citywide. Whether it’s the trees on Main Street or the white oak in your front yard, we have the experience to handle the toughest situations.