Know the Dangers of Trees Near Power Lines

Jamie McInerney
Written by Jamie McInerney
Updated June 8, 2022
Know the Dangers of Trees Near Power Lines
Photo: Perry Mastrovito / Image Source / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Tree branches should never touch nearby power lines.

  • The interaction can cause fires, outages, and electric shock.

  • It is a homeowner's duty to maintain trees near power lines.

  • Tree pruning costs between $75 and $1,500.

  • Tree removal costs between $200 and $2,000.

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The trees on your property offer plenty of benefits. For starters, they can help keep your home cool and your lawn from drying out—and they boost curb appeal, too. But because trees can conduct electricity and are highly susceptible to fire, it’s essential that they be kept away from power lines. Here’s how to tell when a tree is a power line hazard—and when you should call in a pro to trim it back or remove it. 

What Are the Dangers of Trees Near Power Lines?

An arborist trims trees around power lines
Photo: Sheryl / Adobe Stock

Here are some of the problems that arise when branches and power lines meet:

Electric Shock

Wood itself isn’t very good at conducting electricity—but the water inside a tree is. So if a tree has a high enough moisture content and is touching a power line, it could have a current running through it. Anyone who touches that tree, such as a homeowner doing yard work or a child who likes to climb, runs the risk of getting electrocuted. 

Fire Hazards

Damage to a power line can lead to a short circuit; this can cause sparks that could ignite a nearby tree. Severe weather is often to blame, but a tree branch that rubs against a power line can also result in dangerous wear and tear. 

Power Outages

A short circuit in a power line isn’t just a fire hazard: It can also cause an incredibly inconvenient power outage. This interruption of power can leave you without refrigeration, air conditioning, heat, internet, and other day-to-day essentials, and it puts a strain on emergency facility resources, too. 

How Far Apart Should Trees and Power Lines Be?

It depends on the height of the tree. A mature tree that’s 25 feet or taller should be about 25 feet away from overhead power lines. And if it’s a very large tree—35 feet or taller—any overhead power lines should be at least 50 feet away.

Who Is Responsible for Trimming Trees Around Power Lines?

If you notice a tree that’s reaching toward a power line, you may be wondering whether it’s up to you or your municipality to address the issue. Generally, it is the property owner’s responsibility to clear greenery from power lines on the lot.

If you have any questions about your tree-trimming responsibilities, check out your property deed. It will include information about any right-of-way agreements that allow utility companies to access your property in order to maintain and update their equipment—plus what you’re required to do to keep trees and other objects from disrupting that access. 

Trim Trees Yourself or Hire It Out? 

How Far Apart Should Trees and Power Lines Be?
Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Adobe Stock

While an avid DIY-er may feel confident going at a tree with a pair of trusty shears, it’s not the safest weekend chore. Pruning a tree near power lines is dangerous because of the proximity to an electric current and the risk of getting electrocuted. 

Plus, the work often requires a bucket truck and other specialized equipment that, if handled by someone without experience or the right protective gear, can cause serious personal injury or property damage. 

Tree service professionals are also able to distinguish between dead branches and healthy ones, and they know how to keep branches from falling during the pruning process. 

When Is the Best Time for Tree Services?

The best time to trim back a tree is in the winter and early spring. That’s because the colder weather prompts freshly-cut branches’ “wounds” to heal faster—and the quicker that happens, the less time there is for diseases to infiltrate. Cold weather also deters pests such as aphids and termites from seeking out newly-trimmed trees.

Late winter and early spring are also the best times for tree removal because trees are dormant. Trees slow their metabolism and growth during dormancy. This makes them lighter and easier to remove. 

Taking Care of Your Lawn During Service

You can protect your lawn from foot traffic and heavy equipment by laying a ground protection mat on the grass. It will minimize damage to your lawn while also simplifying the cleanup process. 

How Much Do Tree Services Cost?

If you have trees on your property that are dangerously close to power lines, you might be wondering what it will cost to fix the situation. Professional tree pruning ranges between $75 and $1,500, while tree removal costs anywhere from $200 to $2,000. The cost of stump grinding for trees that are cut down at the trunk averages around $320. The final cost of any tree service depends on the size of the tree and its location on your property.

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