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An Overview of Utility Poles


Most people do not think about how their utilities get to their home. They know everything is transmitted through wires, but they do not consider the work that goes into providing them with electricity, telephone, and other utilities. It is estimated that there are more than 130 million poles being used across the country to support utilities.

Most Utility Poles Come from Tree Farms

The most popular trees grown for poles are Douglas fir, Western red cedar, Southern yellow pine, and Northeastern red pine. Tree farms grow the trees expressly for harvesting. One of the reasons wooden poles are desirable is because they are easier to move to the site where they are needed than the heavier concrete or steel poles. They are easier to climb and do not rust. They are safer for workers, who often have to climb the poles, because they are non-conductive. One example of a company that offers treated wood poles is Brown Wood Preserving Co., Inc.

Why Use Above Ground Instead of Underground Utilities?

One of the main reasons that most utilities are above ground is the cost. It can cost as much as ten times more to bury utility lines. Another is the cost when repairs are needed. It is necessary to dig the lines up and this could result in interruption of service for many people for a longer period of time than repairing above ground lines. Another reason for above ground utilities is the poles can be used for more than one type of utilities. Many have telecommunication and electricity cables. This reduces the number of poles that are needed especially in large cities.

Utility Poles are Versatile

The poles used for utilities must be treated to withstand a variety of things. When they are preserved, they are resistant to termites and rotting. They are exposed to different elements constantly from blistering heat to steady rains, ice, and snow. The poles used for utilities are generally 40 feet above ground and buried 6 feet to provide stability. Some utility poles can stand 120 feet tall. They are grounded using copper wires attached to metal rods in the ground.

There are many advantages to using wood poles for utilities. They store carbon from the atmosphere and they are easier and more cost effective to manufacture than concrete or steel poles.