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Plan ahead before landscaping near transformers

Posted on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 9:12 am

Cuivre River Electric Cooperative Crew Chief Craig Larkin demonstrates pad-mount transformer accessibility challenges that line workers face daily. Cuivre River Right-of-Way personnel worked with the property owner at this site.
Submitted Photo

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 Electric Cooperative linemen and all electric utility workers.
“We realize landscaping represents an investment of time and money,” says Cuivre River 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 linemen and all electric utility 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 Cuivre River 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.
Property owners should also be aware that vegetation and obstructions in designated utility easements where poles, wires, and other equipment like pad-mount transformers are placed could be damaged by utility 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.”
Electrical wire continues underground from the transformer to your home. Never dig in your yard without first calling 8-1-1 to mark underground utility lines.
To learn more about how you can safely beautify the area around your transformer, Cuivre River members may contact Superintendent of Right-of-Way Maintenance Scott Skopec. Email or call 800.392.3709, ext. 4847.
To learn more about electric safety, visit,, or contact Cuivre River Electric Cooperative at 636-528-8261, 636-695-4700, or 800-392-3709.