Trees and power lines; normally they don’t go together but we see them together all the time so a common question that we seem to get is can trees touch the power lines? There’s more than a simple yes or no answer to this question. It depends on the type of wire, how far away it is, and if it’s insulated. Just because wires or touching branches doesn’t mean they’re connecting the branches to electrical power. If wires rub against the branches the insulation can read the way and then the wire can touch the tree branch causing a spark, fire, or dangerous situation altogether.
In order for the current to flow through the tree, there has to be a complete circuit from the power source to the wire to the branch to the ground and back to the power source. That might seem like a really complicated system but it can happen faster than you can imagine. It also depends on how the power source is grounded and how far away it is from the tree.
Most power lines in residential neighborhoods have some insulation on them, primarily for protection from the weather. The trees actually a poor conductor of electricity so very little current flows through it to the ground.
We had a neighbor once who had a tree that reached far up into the power lines and the neighborhood kids like to climb that tree a lot. But, the closer they got to the power line, the higher the chance of electrocution. Most homeowners don’t how well insulated the power lines are. Most of the time of the electric current is more intense the closer to the tree you are. It can spread out from the tree and roots and then of course head back to the source, in which case it could cause the tree to light on fire. Obviously, if the tree is sparking and catching on fire, it’s an extremely LiveWire and you should call the electrical company right away.
But, what if you just don’t know how dangerous the power lines are that may be touching the branches or the tree?
A live tree conducts electricity because of its water content. Unlike the tree itself, water is an excellent conductor of electricity and if you are in the electricity’s path to the ground touching that water or alive, very wet tree, electricity can travel through the water to you.
Also, trees don’t have to physically touch and energize powerline to be dangerous either, this is where the unknowns are so great that it’s best not to even get close to the tree. If you are noticing your tree getting dangerously close to power lines or if you are just concerned about the safety of kids, pets and your property in general, give us a call. We can expertly trim the tree or remove it altogether to create a more safe environment for your property. It’s better to be safe than sorry and just not mess around when it comes to electricity.
Image by Matthew Paul Argall