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Kaplan ITA's Monthly Inspection Tips - Free Electronic Newsletter

July, 2004
Correct Clearances for Overhead Services
Issue #27

Dear Inspector,

This month's tip is by request. I had a request for a tip on the correct clearances for overhead services. The request included the comment that persons at the site many times say "if it's wrong why hasn't the power company fixed or disconnected it?"

Well, the answer to that question is the meter readers are not technicians. They are trained to read meters, not police for safety hazards. Plus, most power companies do not have staff to just patrol the streets looking for low residential lines. I once owned a house in California where the service drop passed over the rear yard for about 75-feet. I could reach up and touch the lines with my hand (and I can reach 8-feet, that's it) from grade. I called the utility company to re-tension the lines. I arrived home that day to a note on my door that said "lines code complying and no hazard." Of course they thought that was it. I copied from one of their safety brochures the illustration of a person being electrocuted by low overhead lines and the notice to call them ASAP if this condition was observed. I sent that with a photo of me touching the lines and an explanation that a technician said this condition was "safe." Needless to say the next day a crew was at my house re-tensioning the service drop and one of the told me the previous technician was being "retrained."

The National Electrical Code has jurisdiction over the clearances on residential property. Basically, the minimum clearance over any residential property is 12-vertical feet. There is an exception of 10-vertical feet for "walking surfaces" which can be interpreted as sidewalks and yards. I use the 10-feet rule for areas that are clearly walking surface and 12-feet for driveways and any area a vehicle might typically traverse.

The below illustration from Code Check ® depicts the Code required clearances from grade, driveways, roads (not a home inspectors concern) roofs and other parts of buildings. This should help assist with recognizing proper clearances for overhead wires.

We'll talk next month,

Mike Casey
Kaplan Professional Schools
Now You're Ready For Business!™



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