To improve aesthetics in many neighborhoods, some communities and local governments require power lines to be installed underground. While this eliminates utility poles and overhead wires, it requires installing pad-mount transformers in some yards — often in the front yard.
Homeowners concerned about curb appeal or backyard decor attempt to screen transformers from view by using bushes, flower beds and fences. These well-meaning beautification practices often obstruct access and create an unsafe situation for Cuivre River linemen.
“We realize landscaping represents an investment of time and money,” says Safety Coordinator Doug Bagby. “We respect the effort and care our members invest in making their properties attractive. However, landscaping around electrical equipment interferes with our ability to deliver safe and reliable power.”
Cuivre River workers need at least 10 feet of clear space in front of pad-mount transformers to maintain a safe working distance. Linemen repair units while they are energized so homeowners don’t experience an interruption in service. To ensure safety, they use an 8-foot fiberglass hotstick that requires about 10 feet of “elbow room” in front of the access panel.
“In some cases, consumers may leave plenty of space in front of the transformer, but grow vegetation on the other three sides,” explains Operations Supervisor Marvin Peasel. “This invites other problems. For example, plant roots can interfere with the transformer's operation. Tall vegetation may also allow arcing to occur, increasing the risk of injury and fire."
To reduce these hazards, allow at least three feet of space on the three remaining sides of the transformer. If pad-mount transformer maintenance, repair or replacement is necessary, vegetation and other obstructions will be removed.
Members should also be aware that vegetation and obstructions in designated utility easements where the cooperative places poles, wires, and other equipment like pad-mount transformers, could be damaged by cooperative vehicles and equipment.
“Occasionally, we may need to repair a transformer, and eventually transformers must be upgraded and replaced,” says Peasel. “To perform this work, line trucks must be driven into the right-of-way and the transformer lifted out. Although we try to minimize the impact, plants will be damaged if they’re in the way.”
Call before you dig!
Electrical wire continues underground from the transformer to your home. Never dig in your yard without first calling 8-1-1 to mark underground utilities.
To learn more about how you can safely beautify the area around your transformer, contact Superintendent of Right-of-Way Maintenance Scott Skopec. Email email@example.com or call (800) 392-3709, ext. 4847.