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Buried Electric Lines?

by Dragon / December 16, 2007 1:58 PM PST

With the news always reporting power outages in many places -- the latest being in Oklahoma, where they had a couple of inches of ice -- I've been wondering if it would be worth it in the long run, to bury electric lines, and in newer neighborhoods, mandate that all new lines be buried. I imagine part of the cost of electricity is embedded in our bills.

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I"ve been told...
by James Denison / December 16, 2007 3:59 PM PST
In reply to: Buried Electric Lines?

...that buried electric lines attract lightning more than aerial lines but don't know if that's true. I suspect it just cost more to do so and harder to repair when needed and that's the reason it's not done more than it is. I doubt there is more danger from workers hitting buried electric lines than those hitting aerial lines with conducting equipment at times. My broadband TV cable line is buried and it seems to work just fine. I wouldn't mind seeing all those poles disappear.

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Where I live
by PudgyOne / December 16, 2007 5:18 PM PST
In reply to: I"ve been told...

we still have the poles, however the newer developments that are being built, all utilities are underground. They usually have a central location for a group of homes(maybe 4). Larger developments, there is a master location for telephone. Cable smaller groups and I'm NOT quite sure about how they do the electric. My guess is at each home.


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Poles vs Buried
by James Denison / December 16, 2007 9:11 PM PST
In reply to: Where I live

My neighborhood was built in 1960-1965 time frame and has the poles. One advantage is it's hard for a truck or car to take out a pole, not so an access box. My oldest took out a newer neighborhood's telephone and cable a couple years back when she ran off the road in her Dakota. Clipped off both main boxes which were right next to each other as she ended up in a yard. Wires of all sorts sticking out everywhere. They probably weren't too happy there about that one. Thankfully insurance covered it, but I noticed it took days before it was repaired and the entire neighborhood was without cable TV and phone service during that time. I'm glad she didn't hit the electric service box, if there was one.

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As Angeline notes, the electrical access is usually
by drpruner / December 17, 2007 4:04 PM PST
In reply to: Poles vs Buried

underground, as well. When an entire neighborhood is built up from scratch it's easy enough to plan all the utilities in neat grids. My only boxes are phone and cable (which we don't use) on the street easement. Electric comes out of the ground at my meter on the garage, like magic. And no buried utilities at all in the back yard.

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Not really but....
by C1ay / December 17, 2007 9:17 PM PST
In reply to: I"ve been told...
I"ve been told that buried electric lines attract lightning more than aerial lines...

Buried electrical lines are subject to an eddy current effect from ground lightning strikes.

I used to work on satellite systems back when the dishes were 10 feet plus. It was not uncommon to see smoked antenna amplifiers and/or receivers even though the system had not received a direct hit. This was a result of the induced current on the buried lines between the antenna and the receiver. Consequently many of these incidents did not have damage to other electrical systems at the facility unless the main power lines were also buried. I also noticed that the vast majority were caused by strikes to the ground or building with few caused by strikes to aerial lines.
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It is a smart idea.
by Angeline Booher / December 16, 2007 10:33 PM PST
In reply to: Buried Electric Lines?

They have done this in Anchorage when my family lived there.

Now it's being done in new subdivisions in my area,

The phone and cable companies will bury the lines from the street to the house, as well.

My city had little foresight in that it did not require sewers, sidewalks and/or street lights outside of the city proper.

Speakeasy Moderator

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One reason I brought it up
by Dragon / December 16, 2007 10:46 PM PST
In reply to: It is a smart idea.

that I didn't mention was that I have a niece who is going to school in OK. She was home without electricity for 40 hours until she found a friend who had power.

There are often associated problems, too, with water flooding houses or apartments. People may not be at home when that happens, and when they do, they may not think to let the faucets drip when it's cold

Also, I always hear about people freezing, especially older people.

I imagine there are some stop lights that aren't working, too.

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You are right on all points.
by Angeline Booher / December 16, 2007 11:04 PM PST

because of the last ice storm here, one area of the county was without power for a month, it was just north of us. I don't know how we lucked out.

Since then, the power company has been very aggressive ith tree trimming near the lines.

We had unvented gas logs installed (permitted here) not long before my husband got sick. One day the gas forced air furnace stopped working. Those logs kept that 1700 sq.ft. house warm! The furnace was soon up to running-just a minor problem.

But I still think that somebody up there liked us because I don't know how I could have kept the house warm for a sick person.

What I would love to have is a natural gas generator. Pricey, though,

Speakeasy Moderator

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Power issues
by Willy / December 17, 2007 1:11 PM PST

When we had the big power outage last yr. due to sagging power line(hit east coast hard) was at fault. Home owners were fighting to keep their trees from being "lopped-off" as it were and looked terrible. You can't blame them but that was the cause of power lost, too much demand caused a power line to sag drop enough to touch a tree. Since then, trees are being whacked everywhere with no where near the complaints they had before. But again, seeing some of those trees now, it would have been better just to cut them down. Heck, I lose power now and then w/o any tree damage, car off road, weather, squirrels, anything those linemen tell me seems to be at fault. My area was on the outskirts of that power outage but did see the flicker a bit and wondered, what again. -----Willy

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I found an online OK newspaper
by Dragon / December 17, 2007 2:14 PM PST
In reply to: Power issues

And saw this article. I did a quick Google search after I zoomed in on one paragraph:
Contrary to perception, not every electric line can be buried. Only the smaller lines feeding individuals homes and businesses are suitable, leaving thousands of miles of lines exposed to weather.

And I found this:
To increase reliability of the city's power system in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has energized a new underground 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line that uses advanced, environmentally friendly technology to bring power to the city's businesses and residences.

I've already left a comment, so I hope I'm right and that they (whoever made the first comment) are behind the technology curve.

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They're right that it isn't simple.
by drpruner / December 17, 2007 4:11 PM PST

Buried lines must be built for soil chemistry, moisture, movement, and have some armoring so a glancing blow from a shovel doesn't fry the homeowner. Putting distribution voltages- >440- underground exacerbates all problems. Also the cost of armoring offsets some of the pole savings.

All that said, though, underground is usually better, but the capital cost to replace is outside the ability of the typical Midwestern state, much less county.

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Choose the right tree for locations near power lines
by Dango517 / December 17, 2007 2:19 PM PST
In reply to: Power issues

Be proactive prune the tree before the storm.

Use a reputable Tree Service or an Arborist.

If you need to "top" a tree you or someone planted the wrong tree or put it in the wrong place.

It is important to consider trees when burying power lines or planting them near buried power lines. This goes for sewer and water lines as well.

Get a good quality tree. Avoid silver maples an other fast growing trees. The saying "grows fast wont last" applies. It will cost you more and your head aches will be many with a fast growing tree. Fast growing trees have weak wood.

Plant replacement trees for older trees.

Trees come in all kinds of shapes and sizes see a good nurseryman about this.

To a limited extent "cabling" can reduce ice damage to trees.

Plant a tree in the southwest corner of your home to conserve energy.

Tree breath CO2 plant as many as possible.

Trees add value to your property and the value of your neighborhood.

Tree require some maintenance keep these costs in mind when planting them.

Plant trees with good fall color.
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(NT) This thread is untracked
by Dango517 / December 17, 2007 4:06 PM PST
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Sounds good; same advice my wife
by drpruner / December 17, 2007 4:14 PM PST

gives her landscaping customers.

As to CO2, grass also exchanges it, of course, but trees are much more better at it. And grass sucks. Water.

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Sue, if
by Willy / December 18, 2007 2:38 AM PST

Pruning tress makes sense, but far too many home owners have tress that weren't planted and/or grew along property lines. On top of that, small trees grown long before power was present and now great massive trees, some in the 100yr. range, long before power lines, etc.. Let's be honest pruning trees is an expense and who wants to pay for what the elect. co. will do anyways, as I never denied access on my property. In fact leave the tree cuts, don't mulch them I'll use for firewood. The most complaints are those is suburban areas of few trees and were planted and/or part of the building scheme for that area. They do select good tress but even those get abit big after 50yrs. or more. When Dutch Elm disease hit our hometown, many trees were replaced but didn't offer the beauty of a curb Elm tree. Anyways, yeah if you can plan for trees, prune them. -----Willy

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crabapple and dogwood
by James Denison / December 18, 2007 5:53 AM PST

Those are the ones I planted under my power lines 17-18 years ago. They don't (and haven't) grow tall enough to hit my power lines. Anyone who plants tall species of trees under power lines AFTER they've been placed should be fined. I can accept some trees are over 100 years old and the lines came along later, but those aren't the ones which cause the most problem. This year I had 3 power outages due to high winds causing tree limbs to hit electric lines in this area. This last time I told them exactly where they needed to trim them and asked if they could completely remove some of them instead of just cutting them back. I'd gone out looking at the lines myself and was amazed at how many lines were running through cedars, norfolk pines, oaks, and other tall trees. What really rankled was the huge decorative fir or pine trees people had planted at the front of their property right under the lines. Maybe when they were small it looked nice. Many of them such as the blue spruces and hemlocks are so big they don't even add anything attractive to the places they are in front of, in fact more obscuring them instead of adding to the scenery. It may offer some increased privacy to those hidden behind that type tree, but while placing everyone else down the line at risk of power loss due to same. The problem removing entire trees seems to be trees that aren't in the actual easement but which have limbs grow over the easement area. Still, I know they don't take out trees that grow too tall and are in the easement area. I wish they would! If someone wants the kind of privacy those large spreading trees under the power lines provide, they could switch to a hedge with a row of dogwoods behind it and do about the same without placing everyone's electrical power at risk during every high wind.

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Where my mother lives
by Dragon / December 18, 2007 10:19 AM PST
In reply to: crabapple and dogwood

They have fences. Once upon a time, the trash truck would come by and the guy riding shotgun would really get a good look into the kitchen part of the house. My mother got tired of that and built a higher fence. Happy

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My father had a tree that was closer than
by Roger NC / December 18, 2007 11:03 AM PST
In reply to: crabapple and dogwood

realized when planted, and after it had to be trimmed around the line, he asked the crew one time to just take it down.

Their reply, sorry, we can't do that. He asked if they could completely remove the top under the line height so he could cut it down without worrying about the power line. Nope.

All they would do was cut a hole in one side of the tree for the wires. Granted, this was the wires to his house, not the main, but we all know how policies can be applied with very little regard for practicality.

Funny thing, he had asked them to cut down the tree and they said no. But the next time they came by, they laid it on the ground. I'm betting someone mentioned and given my father was known by many in the town, someone higher up heard about and told them to go ahead and do it.

Hey, sometimes the "good ole boy" system works for you.


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next street over
by James Denison / December 18, 2007 4:15 PM PST

someone planted of all things a sycamore about five feet away from directly under the lines. Those are the fastest growing tree around here other than a tulip poplar. When it was about 15 years old it was already above the electric lines. They came through here clearing limbs back and they cut every limb off that sycamore on the line side, except for the lowest. Oddest looking tree there now and the people still didn't take it down. At the end of that street was a fairly old hemlock and they totally topped it off. The homeowner did take that one down and the place looks much the better for it. They sent out trim notices and papers for signatures before they came through here. I think the hemlock person wanted it topped too, so it would be easier for him to complete the job. Hemlocks look good for about the first 20-25 years, then they start looking worse and worse in my opinion.

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Yep, here we are in the 21st century,
by drpruner / December 17, 2007 3:58 PM PST

but we can't survive without the 20th.

And it is the elderly and very young who are likeliest actually to die from the problems.

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reply to: Buried Electric Lines
by caktus / December 17, 2007 2:57 PM PST
In reply to: Buried Electric Lines?

Where I'm at nearby towns, and even some rual areas have power and phone lines burried at customers request. Appearantly it's very inexpensive because they rarely charge for it unless they have to run several thousand yards or so. About the only time I loose power or phone service is if a line or transformer several miles down the road is down. They don't even charge me if they have to repair a line that is burried on my property. And it's nice not seeing poles and lines strung every where. And when the phone or power folks have to run new lines they just dig a narrow hole 18 or so inches deep with a ditch-witch, run the line and thier finnished and gone in an hour or so instead of taking days or weeks to install or repair utility lines and poles. They even have scanners that can locate the lines as well as a break in the line.

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I thought this was pretty interesting
by Dragon / December 17, 2007 11:13 PM PST

"However, what's keeping the lights out for many homes may not be the utilities' problem but the homeowners'. It's a piece of equipment called the power service entrance. If it's damaged, repairs are the property owner's responsibility, and they could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars." !!!

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