If you’re planning on adding a few trees on your property, it’s important to know where you should plant them in relation to power lines. Tall trees that grow up into overhead power lines have to be continually cut back to keep clear of the lines, which can be expensive and make for an ugly, oddly-shaped tree. And the roots of trees that are planted too close to underground power lines can be damaged if the lines have to be dug up for repairs.
Here are some simple tips to help you figure out where you should plant trees to avoid conflicts with power lines.
Planting Trees Near Overhead Power Lines
Tree experts and electric utilities recommend that homeowners planting trees near overhead power lines choose trees with mature heights of 25 feet or less. Some tree care professionals refer to this as the low zone for planting trees. There is also a medium zone and a tall zone for planting trees. Here’s how they work:
- Low Zone — This area extends from directly underneath overhead power lines to between 15 feet and 25 feet on either side of the lines. Only low-growing trees with mature (fully-grown) heights of between 20 feet and 25 feet should be planted in the low zone.
- Medium Zone — Medium-growing trees with mature heights of between 25 feet and 35 feet need to be planted in the medium zone, an area that’s about 25 feet to 50 feet away from power lines.
- Tall Zone — Tall trees over 35 feet need to be reserved for the tall zone, which begins about 50 feet away from power lines.
Planting Trees Near Underground Power Lines
Because underground power lines aren’t deeply buried, and in many cases can be buried close to the surface, it’s important to plant your trees a safe distance away. Doing so will help prevent problems while digging and can help prevent your tree’s root system from growing around the lines. While trees and underground power lines often coexist well together, your tree could be seriously damaged if roots have to be cut to dig up and repair a line. And remember, before you do any digging you should consult with your utility to help mark and protect underground lines.
Since a tree’s root system is essentially as wide as the tree itself, and in some cases wider, consider following the low, medium and tall zone recommendations when planting trees near underground power lines. However, if you keep the low zone around buried power lines clear of trees, you won’t risk major damage to the tree’s roots if the line needs to be repaired.
Trees Are Good, “Avoiding Tree & Utility Conflicts.”
Utah State University, “Small Trees for Planting Near Power Lines,” July 2009.