Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

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Small Law Survivor
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Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:48 pm

We have a heavily wooded one-acre lot in Massachusetts. An oak tree on our property grew in a location where it is touching the power line coming in from the street. I should have noticed this and taken the tree down while it was small, but I didn't. Mea culpa.

Right now the tree trunk is putting light pressure on the power line, but this is a fast-growing tree. It's only a matter of another year or so, at most, when it will threaten to rip the power line out of the house. The situation worries me, and I want to resolve it this year.

I'm wondering what my options are, short of removing the tree, which will be difficult and expensive. The tree is in an awkward location for purposes of access by a tree cutting bucket truck, and it will have to be removed very carefully to avoid moving or ripping the power line. There are many other trees between the street and the house that would prevent just moving the line where it attaches to the house.

I may even have to have an electrician present to assist when this is done. Based on past tree removal experience, I would expect the cost of removing this tree to be $2,000 or more. (Planning to get a quote).

I called the electrical company (Eversource) about this last summer, and they gave me the royal run-around. The bottom line is that they said "this is your problem."

Before I have an arborist take down this tree at significant cost, I'd be interested if any BHs have helpful thoughts on how to address this problem.

Edit: looks like the second image on this page:
https://www.mcgarryandmadsen.com/inspec ... house.html
Last edited by Small Law Survivor on Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:53 pm

If the trunk is leaning against the power line, then take the tree down as your problem is only going to be magnified as the tree continues reaching for the sky. If it's just a limb, that you can just trim back. You should have a licensed arborist provide their opinion when you ask for a quote. For a tree to cost $2K to take down, that is a tree with significant height and weight to it, it's not just a small tree as one might expect for a power line going from the street into the home.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Watty » Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:56 pm

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:48 pm
I called the electrical company (Eversource) about this last summer, and they gave me the royal run-around. The bottom line is that they said "this is your problem."
One problem you have is that no tree company will want to deal with a tree that is up against a live power-line so you might be in a catch 22 situation.

You might try calling your city or county to get them involved.

A letter from a lawyer might be worth the cost if that does not work.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by jebmke » Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:59 pm

Our tree company has dealt with this before. They simply call the power company and someone comes out and cuts power on the line while they remove the tree. If it is an experience tree company, they should know what to do.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by dodecahedron » Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:06 pm

Sorry you are having to deal with this. In my neck of the woods (Upstate NY), our electric utility (National Grid) notified customers that they had hired a contractor to proactively send crews around to do preventive tree pruning. I gather this is something they do on a periodic ongoing basis. According to our utility, there can even be issues even if there are tall trees nearby (not necessarily touching) their lines. They definitely want to be in charge of the contractors doing the work.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by curmudgeon » Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:17 pm

I'm presuming this is the 220v sevice line to the house. One option, though it would almost certainly be more expensive, would be to look into converting your service to underground. It might or might not be feasible, but it would be less prone to damage. This would require work both by the utility (at the pole) and by an electrician to trench a conduit and modify the service into the house electrical panel.

Alternately, it also might be possible to reroute the wires a bit, by moving the anchor point of the support line (typically a steel cable supporting the insulated power cables) on your house over a foot or two and having a slightly longer service wire.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by galawdawg » Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:19 pm

From the Eversource website, in the situation where "A tree branch in direct contact causing noticeable pressure or strain on the electric service wire between the pole and your property" they direct you to "Please continue to our Tree Trimming Assessment request below."

Here is the link for tree assessment and vegetative management service: https://www.eversource.com/vmes/TreeTrimming.aspx

It is unclear what they will do at their expense versus what costs they require the homeowner to bear. Your state public service commission may have rules that govern the responsibility of the power company regarding tree trimming or removal.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:30 pm

I had my tree guy fell 5 trees, but he did not want to deal with 2 that he felt were dangerous. I called Eversource. Many times. Eventually they sent an arborist out, who agreed that Eversource would take the tree down. After many additional calls to Eversource, they did fell 2 trees and removed them. Total elapsed time, around 9 months.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Small Savanna » Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:44 pm

I had some dead trees taken down recently, including a few that were close to the power line from the pole to the house. The tree company arranged for Georgia Power to disconnect the line while they were doing the work, and then reconnect. So at least in this part of the country the tree company makes the arrangements with the power company. Power was out for most of the day, but we were at work and the lineman was just finishing when I returned home.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:57 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:30 pm
I had my tree guy fell 5 trees, but he did not want to deal with 2 that he felt were dangerous. I called Eversource. Many times. Eventually they sent an arborist out, who agreed that Eversource would take the tree down. After many additional calls to Eversource, they did fell 2 trees and removed them. Total elapsed time, around 9 months.
I'll try Eversource. Again. I'd actually prefer that my arborist take this tree down, and that Eversource kill the power while they do that.

Update: Tomato - were the two trees on your property or off?
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Doom&Gloom » Sun Jun 09, 2019 7:08 pm

My experience is with branches is:
pole to pole, the electric company will handle it.
pole to house, up to me.

YMMV. I have no personal experience with trunks of trees infringing upon power lines.

I have been able to persuade the tree trimmers from my power company to cut back some limbs between the pole and the house while they were already here to trim some branches between poles. I felt extremely lucky to have had cooperative guys here for that. I'm sure they wouldn't have dealt with anything larger though.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by michaelingp » Sun Jun 09, 2019 7:45 pm

We have had a tree touching the power line (identical to 2nd picture) for years, maybe a decade. The electric company just puts a sleeve on it like the article shows. I don't understand how an oak tree can grow so much in one year to tear the cable out of your house. If you are set on resolving it this year, I don't see any alternative than you paying to remove the tree. In our area, $2,000 would be very inexpensive for a significant size tree.

Our experience getting the electric company to remove a tree on our property is that it is very difficult to convince them that it's their problem. In your case, only one house will lose power if the tree impacts the cable, so I don't think they will care. If they have to replace the cable when the tree damages it, that will cost them a lot less (maybe nothing if they bill you) than taking the tree down.

I do sympathize with your difficulty getting people to work on the tree. We called many tree companies, and all said the same thing, "We don't have any employees certified to work near power lines." I've never found out if this is a real thing, because when we finally got someone willing to work on it, he said he would just have the power company de-energize the wires.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by miamivice » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:25 pm

The oak tree wont pull the line out of the house. That is not how trees grow.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by RetiredAL » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:49 pm

If you were in CA and called the Utility company, it would be handle promptly.

Last year I called about a dead tree at our mountain cabin, that if it fell, it could hit their distribution lines. The first question they asked was if it was contacting wires, because if so, they would immediately dispatch an emergency crew.

As to why a tree crew is reluctant to take a job like that, it's the electrical hazard and liability. Near the cabin last year, a utility contracted tree company actually started a fire when they accidentally dropped a trimmed branch onto the power lines. The fire was contained with only a part of an acre burned.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:31 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 6:57 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:30 pm
I had my tree guy fell 5 trees, but he did not want to deal with 2 that he felt were dangerous. I called Eversource. Many times. Eventually they sent an arborist out, who agreed that Eversource would take the tree down. After many additional calls to Eversource, they did fell 2 trees and removed them. Total elapsed time, around 9 months.
I'll try Eversource. Again. I'd actually prefer that my arborist take this tree down, and that Eversource kill the power while they do that.
Update: Tomato - were the two trees on your property or off?
Both trees were on our property. The wrinkle is that they are 1000+ feet from the road. We could have had Eversource turn off power, but it required a large machine to take down the trees, and I’m not sure my tree guy wanted the Liability.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:10 am

miamivice wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:25 pm
The oak tree wont pull the line out of the house. That is not how trees grow.
Miamivice: why do you say this? The diameter of the trunk is expanding as the tree grows.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by retiredjg » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:44 am

The photograph you showed mentioned a plastic sleeve on the part of the line that rubs the tree. Perhaps you are worried that the line will get too short over time as the tree gets fatter. Seems like they could just add a few inches to the line to eliminate that problem for several years. Then do it again at some later date.

I also like the idea of burying that line from the pole to the house. Might even cost less than $2k?

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:50 am

retiredjg wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:44 am
I also like the idea of burying that line from the pole to the house. Might even cost less than $2k?
The previous owner buried the line. Be sure to mark exactly where you bury it if you do. We recently dug for geothermal installations, and Eversource would not mark the underground portion . Verizon marked the Fios line. Eversource put a red flag at the base of the pole, indicating that’s where the underground began but no other marks. Duh! You can’t make this stuff up.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by HomeStretch » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:58 am

My large tree company will remove such trees in conjunction with electric company shutting off power while work is done.

I would consider taking the tree down for 2 reasons:

1. I have seen 2 tree fires in neighborhood from power lines (transformer blew in 1st case and downed wire in 2nd case). The fire traveled down the service line to the house for a bit, nearby tree caught on fire, but luckily didn’t reach houses.

2. In the event of a downed service line, you are last in our area to have line repaired and power restored. When neighbors had a tree branch damage service line during an ice storm, they were out of power for 2-3 days longer than the neighborhood as the electric company was deluged with service calls.
Last edited by HomeStretch on Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by miamivice » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:19 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:10 am
miamivice wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:25 pm
The oak tree wont pull the line out of the house. That is not how trees grow.
Miamivice: why do you say this? The diameter of the trunk is expanding as the tree grows.
The trunk will grow around the wire, it will not push it out of the house. Swaying of the tree could rip it out though if the tree sways and the wire is tight. The tree growth itself will not pull the wire out though.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by c.coyle » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:50 am

dodecahedron wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 5:06 pm
Sorry you are having to deal with this. In my neck of the woods (Upstate NY), our electric utility (National Grid) notified customers that they had hired a contractor to proactively send crews around to do preventive tree pruning. I gather this is something they do on a periodic ongoing basis. According to our utility, there can even be issues even if there are tall trees nearby (not necessarily touching) their lines. They definitely want to be in charge of the contractors doing the work.
This is also how it works here in Pennsylvania.
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by miamivice » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:55 am

With regards to the utility doing the trimming, keep in mind that this is not the bare distribution wires on top of poles. This is the insulated 240v wire that runs from the transformer to the customer's home. Some (many? all?) declare that the insulated 240v wires are the responsibility of the customer rather than the utility.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by lthenderson » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:57 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:48 pm
I'm wondering what my options are, short of removing the tree, which will be difficult and expensive.
Have you looked into burying the line? At a previous house, I buried my line from the street to the house and it cost me a little over $500 all in. It was much cheaper than removing a tree.

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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by Small Law Survivor » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:40 pm

lthenderson - who would do a job like that? Bury the power line? ....
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Re: Tree Touching Power Line - Do I Have Any Choice Other Than to Take Down the Tree?

Post by retiredjg » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:19 pm

I don't know who would do it but this is probably not a do it yourself job. The line to my house is buried and it is pretty darn deep - maybe2 or 3 feet. That's a good thing because I planted a couple of things right on top of it before I know it was there. :shock:

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