Can You Build a Shed Under Power Lines?

Shed under power line

Having limited space on your property may mean looking for the most unlikely options for your new structures. One example of such is adding a shed to your property when you do not have any space other than under a power line. Is it possible to erect one in such a space?

Although not usually recommended by power providers, you can erect a shed under a power line. But, to do this, a representative from your power provider will have to come on-site to ensure that the height allowance is safe.

When it comes to sheds, most power providers recommend at least a 10 ft. clearance from the highest point of the shed to the power line’s maximum sag, depending on the power line.

This article addresses the general possibility of constructing a shed or another structure under or near a power line.


What to Know Before Building a Shed Under or Next to a Power Line

Shed and similar structures, like tall fences, buildings, and billboards, pose a safety reliability threat. Failure to keep them at a safe distance from power lines could be hazardous. The obstruction could also make it impossible for power personnel to access the lines during maintenance and repair services.

Also, if a high transmission line comes into contact with such structures, it can lead to power outages for hundreds of families in the region.

The permission to build or not to build under a power line relies on two things, the power line provider and type of power line. For instance, restrictions under transmission overhead power lines are different from those put in place for distribution overhead power lines.

So, before putting up your shed near or under a power line, I recommend that you contact your local provider. They will confirm everything regarding the measurements and other requirements that you need to meet. These confirmations include calculating the sag and sway over the respective power line, including the movement of the line on both hot and windy days.

Generally, your shade should not go beyond the ‘no go zone,’ which is 10 ft. away from the line. Even with that, any structure within 10 to 21 ft. requires a spotter from the power provider to be on-site to ensure that the structure’s owners keep a safe distance from the lines.

When erecting a shed under existing power lines of a type or size that do not require a building permit, you do not have to follow the NEC’s 10 ft. standards. As long as the lines do not come into contact with the roof, neither the lines nor cables will get damaged.

However, these codes came in place to keep roofers safer. Safety comes in handy when you construct a shed under an existing power line and whenever you need to do any future repair works. If you build your shed under a low-lying power line, make sure that anyone accessing your roof for whatever purpose is aware of the impending danger.

In some cases, a direct route overhead for a power line for a new or remodeling project may be above an existing shed. In such cases, you may contact your provider and inquire whether to remove the structure or leave it there.


Under What Circumstances Can You Build a Shed Underneath a Power Line?

Not all sheds pose the same kinds of risks when built under power lines. Some are safer than others. Moreover, you can always follow a few laid down protocols to minimize the risks.

For example, you can put up a shed or outbuilding underneath a low-voltage distribution power line or by keeping a horizontal distance of about 5 feet. In either case, you will have to meet a few requirements.

Underneath Stacked Low-Voltage Lines

  • Observe a minimum vertical distance of 10 feet between the closest voltage line and the highest point.
  • Have a shed footprint of less than 42 square ft.
  • Agree to move the shade anytime on Hydro-Québec’s request.

Underneath Twisted Low-Voltage Power Lines

  • Observe a vertical distance of about 5 ft. between the twisted low voltage lines and the highest part of your roof.
  • The roof should be hard to access, for example, you’d need a ladder to get to it.
  • Have a shed footprint of less than 42 square ft.
  • Agree to move the shade anytime on Hydro-Québec’s request.

If your proposed shed does not meet all the requirements under any of the two above categories, then you do not have permission to erect it under a power line. Of course, the same approach also applies to any other building you want to construct under similar circumstances.


Dangers of Living Near Power Lines

Besides risks of electrocution and potential power disruptions, it is unhealthy to live under a power line. Thus, having a shed may be safe if you only intend to use it as a store. However, if you intend to use it as a tiny office or a structure requiring you to spend long hours there, it is not safe.

Here are some of the most likely effects of living near a power line.


Cancer Scare Because of EMFs

Power lines produce electromagnetic frequencies, otherwise known as EMFs, that are potentially dangerous, according to the WHO. In addition, EMFs are potentially carcinogenic to humans — a more convincing reason to encourage you to stay far from power lines.

EMFs obey the inverse square law and get weaker over a longer distance. It means that being twice as far from the power lines only exposes you to one-fourth of the fields.


Create Magnet of Pollutants

Apart from being more visually pleasing, underground lines have one more health advantages over overhead power lines. They emit fewer EMFs as the surrounding earth reduces their power.

Research also shows that electric fields from high voltage lines alter the air quality in the environment, as they create a magnet of air pollutants, which is evident along busy roads, where air pollution is a rampant issue.

As a result, this increases asthma and lung-related complications in those who live near power lines.

Reduce the Value of Your Property

Houses and structures near or beneath power lines are generally less visually attractive to buyers. They are also hard to sell due to the aforementioned potential health and safety issues. So, if you are planning to construct a structure underneath a power line, you need to consider whether or not you intend on selling your home in the future.


What Is the Minimum Safe Distance from Power Lines?

There are various guidelines based on scientific research regarding how far away you should stay from power lines to ensure your safety.

Generally, it helps if you live at least 1,970 ft. away from high-voltage transmission power lines. But, this distance may vary in some cases. For example, for smaller distribution lines, the distance could be as short as 10 or 20 feet.

There is, however, an eternal debate on how to measure the distance from the power lines. The controversy results from various facts. Also, many experts tend to base this on the effects of EMFs on the buildings.

After considering all these factors, it is safe to conclude that:

  • For 133 kV lines, you have to keep a 100-foot distance
  • For 230 kV lines, you have to keep a 150-foot distance
  • For 345 kV lines, you have to keep a 250-foot distance
  • For 550 kV lines, you have to keep a 350-foot distance

Underground lines are more likely to be closer and potentially more harmful, especially if you live on the ground floor. The same applies to two-story buildings, as power lines are closer from those apartments, almost at electric post’s height.

Utility Easement and How It Affects What You Can Construct Under a Power Line

As the owners of the infrastructure, your power providers are responsible for maintaining the system that delivers electricity to your property. This means that they must, from time to time, use the right of way to the lines that cross your property. Because of this, they rely on a legal agreement that allows them access to the property near or beneath the power lines.

We deemed fit, as the providers may seek the removal of any structure blocking their way. So, if they think that your shed is such a structure, they will demand you to remove it.

Even though the assessment allows them a right of entry, the providers must try not to disrupt your activities on the said property. They must proceed with reasonable care to minimize damages. However, some disruptions, like tire ruts from plants and equipment, are inevitable.

As a landowner, you must also comply with these rules. For instance, you must get the easement holder’s permission if you plan to build any structure on the utility’s easement.

If there is an easement appearing on your property, you should have it on your title’s history. Most easements, such as utility company easements, do not bear expiry dates; they run with the land. Therefore, they will remain in place even if there are changes to the said land ownership. The new titleholder must then continue to observe the terms of the easement.

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