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Reuben Saltzman

Tree Branches, Exposed Power Lines: Who Fixes What

The two most common issues I find with overhead power lines during home inspections are trees rubbing up against them and exposed contacts that present an immediate shock hazard. When I find either one of these conditions, I recommend repair. The question that always follows is “Who’s responsible for that?”

Tree Branches

According to Xcel Energy, tree branches in contact with the overhead power lines between the pole and house are the responsibility of the homeowner.   I suppose this is only fair; tree maintenance should be the responsibility of the homeowner; not the power company.  Before trimming trees around overhead power lines, you should contact Xcel Energy to have your service temporarily disconnected.

Trees rubbing on wires

The one exception is if a tree branch falls onto one of the overhead power lines. If this happens, it’s considered an immediate safety hazard. Xcel Energy will take care of this issue at no charge to the owner.

Exposed conductors / shock hazards.

The power company owns the overhead conductors and the clamps that connect them. The diagram below shows the parts that are owned by the utility company and the parts that are owned by the homeowner.

Service drop diagram labeled

If there is frayed or damaged insulation on the conductors owned by the power company, they’ll fix it at no cost to the owner. Also, if there are exposed clamps or connectors, Xcel Energy will correct this at no cost.

The photos below all came from houses that I’ve inspected this year where there were exposed clamps, or ferrules, connecting the utility lines to the house.

Exposed Ferrule 1

Exposed Ferrule 2

Exposed Ferrule 3

Exposed Ferrule 4

These are all immediate safety hazards that should be repaired by the utility company.  While you may be thinking to yourself “but those are too high to even reach”… just imagine waving around an aluminum roof rake after a heavy snowfall. Scary, huh?

p.s. – the proper name for the overhead power lines that come into the home is “service drop”.  I say overhead power lines because this is what everyone else calls them.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email– Home Inspector Minneapolis

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No responses to “Tree Branches, Exposed Power Lines: Who Fixes What”

  1. Hank Spinnler
    August 31, 2011, 7:07 am

    Reuben,

    From one inspector to another, this is an informative and well-done article. This is one of the common questions that arise during home inspections.

    Regards,

    Hank Spinnler

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    September 1, 2011, 4:15 am

    Thanks Hank! I tried to keep it short and sweet 🙂

  3. andreaschaerf
    June 25, 2013, 1:05 am

    If My tree does not touch my service line routinely, is this dangerous. I, in a storm, they blow and touch is it dangerous.

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    June 25, 2013, 3:35 am

    Potentially, yes.

  5. andreaschaerf
    June 25, 2013, 8:16 am

    Is the danger from having the trees take down a power line or would the tree catch on fire?

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    June 25, 2013, 2:11 pm

    The tree could take down the power line, or continual rubbing on the power line could lead to damaged insulation, exposing live conductors.

  7. Lance Cunningham
    September 24, 2013, 3:48 pm

    What if there are two power poles from the road to behnd the house where the transformer is and the final drop to the house? It makes sense that that final drop would be the homeowner’s responsibility, but what about the lines from the road to the transformer?

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    September 24, 2013, 4:28 pm

    @Lance – I would assume those belong to the utility company too.

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