Trees and power lines often coexist without problems. However, there are precautions to take when planting a tree.
Not only do dangers lurk for the person planting the tree, nearby power lines and trees can be harmed as well. Trees growing too close to electrical lines are the primary cause of momentary short circuits and flickering lights. When it storms, tree limbs that are too close to power lines can knock the lines out completely and create a greater threat to your safety.
Overhead utility lines are the easiest to see and probably the ones we take for granted most. Although these lines look harmless enough, they are extremely dangerous.
Meanwhile, underground utility lines can be buried very close to the ground’s surface. That’s why it’s so important to call before you dig.
“You can’t spell plant without a plan!” is what Indiana Electric Cooperatives wants its DIY’ers to remember when landscaping.
“Before you start planting, we encourage our consumers to call their local 811 call center at least a few working days, but no less than two full working days, before they start planting,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Never assume the utility lines are buried deeper than you plan to dig.”
Once you know where to plant to avoid underground utilities, find out where the prime planting spots away from overhead utility lines are. If you are planting a small tree that will grow no larger than 25 feet tall, planting it 25 feet away from power lines is a safe distance. If the tree is 25-40 feet tall, plant it 40 feet away from power lines. The bigger the tree, the farther it should be. So, if the tree is expected to grow more than 40 feet high, it should be planted 60 feet away from utility lines.
Keeping trees away from these utility lines not only keeps you safe, it keeps the trees safe as well. Trees planted too close to underground lines can suffer root damage. Trees planted too close to overhead lines need regular pruning.
Indiana Electric Cooperatives works hard to provide you reliable electric service. You can help by following these few simple guidelines when managing the trees on your property. Being aware of these dangers and how to avoid them can keep you, your home and the trees safe.
Tips for safely planting a tree
- Call 811 to have underground utilities marked at least a few working days, but no less than two full working days, before digging (IC 8-1-26). Knowing their locations helps you dig safely, and planting a safe distance away will help prevent damage from roots.
- Create a basic plan, or a sketched diagram, before you begin planting to avoid future troubles. Using the information from the underground utility locator service will be a big help in setting some guidelines.
- Consider a tree’s potential growth when choosing its location. If it’s expected to grow higher than 15 feet, choose a spot 25 to 50 feet away from utility lines and your home.
- Plant with energy savings in mind. Not only can you upgrade your landscape, you can decrease your energy use, too. Trees can keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Just be sure you’re aware of power line location and avoid structural damage.
- Call your local cooperative if you need help trimming a tree away from power lines. This will keep you and everyone around you much safer.
Understanding 811’s underground utility markings
So you’ve called 811, the underground utility locator service, to mark the location of underground utilities before you start digging. You see each is marked with a specific color, but what do they represent?
- Red – electric power lines, cables, conduit and lighting cables
- Yellow – natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or other gaseous or flammable material
- Orange – telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit
- Blue – potable (drinking) water
- Green – sewers and drain lines
- Purple – reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines
- White – proposed excavation limits or route