March 2018

They’re big and green. They generally sit on concrete, often within housing developments. Some folks don’t like these “electrical boxes” (a common nickname for pad-mount transformers) and try to hide them with bushes, fences, or flower beds. But stay clear: even small additions around pad-mount transformers create hazards.

“We realize landscaping represents an investment of time and money,” shares Wil Ortiz, manager of vegetation management. “We respect the effort our members invest in making their properties attractive. However, landscaping around electrical equipment interferes with our ability to deliver reliable power.”

Transformer with bushes“In some cases, consumers may leave plenty of space in front of the transformer, but grow vegetation on the other three sides,” explains Ortiz. “This invites other problems. For example, plant roots can interfere with its operation. Overheating is another big concern that can cause service interruptions when air circulation is compromised.”

Union Power recommends leaving at least 10 feet of clear space in front of pad-mount transformers and four feet on all other sides. We must have unimpeded 24/7 access to the units for conducting routine maintenance and repairs, as well as rapid switching during outage conditions. Just as blocking a fire hydrant is a safety hazard, so is blocking access to electrical equipment.

Transformers need to be left alone

  • Never let anything grow closer than 10 feet from the front of a pad-mount transformer. (The access panel is marked by a handle, lock and sticker on the front.)
  • Never plant anything within four feet on the sides and back of a pad‑mount transformer.
  • Never enclose a pad-mount transformer with fencing, shrubs, or anything else with less than a 10-foot-wide gate or opening.
  • Never allow children to play near pad-mount transformers.
  • Never pour waste oils, chemicals, or other liquids on or near a pad‑mount transformer. These liquids can seep into the ground and damage underground cables.

For more information from Union Power about substation and transformer safety, visit us online. 

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