Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Tree Branches, Exposed Power Lines: Who Fixes What

The two most common issues I find with overhead power lines during home inspections are trees rubbing up against them and exposed contacts that present an immediate shock hazard. When I find either one of these conditions, I recommend repair. The question that always follows is “Who’s responsible for that?”

Tree Branches

According to Xcel Energy, tree branches in contact with the overhead power lines between the pole and house are the responsibility of the homeowner.   I suppose this is only fair; tree maintenance should be the responsibility of the homeowner; not the power company.  Before trimming trees around overhead power lines, you should contact Xcel Energy to have your service temporarily disconnected.  

Trees rubbing on wires

The one exception is if a tree branch falls on to one of the overhead power lines. If this happens, it’s considered an immediate safety hazard. Xcel energy will take care of this issue at no charge to the owner.

Exposed conductors / shock hazards.

The power company owns the overhead conductors and the clamps that connect them. The diagram below shows the parts that are owned by the utility company and the parts that are owned by the homeowner.

Service drop diagram labeled


If there is frayed or damaged insulation on the conductors owned by the power company, they’ll fix it at no cost to the owner. Also, if there are exposed clamps, Xcel Energy will correct this at no cost.

The photos below all came from houses that I've inspected this year where there were exposed clamps, or ferrules, connecting the utility lines to the house.

Exposed Ferrule 1

Exposed Ferrule 2

Exposed Ferrule 3

Exposed Ferrule 4

These are all immediate safety hazards that should be repaired by the utility company.  While you may be thinking to yourself "but those are too high to even reach"... just imagine waving around an aluminum roof rake after a heavy snow fall.  Scary, huh?

p.s. - the proper name for the overhead power lines that come in to the home is "service drop".  I say overhead power lines because this is what everyone else them.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 30 commentsReuben Saltzman • August 30 2011 05:57AM


Very timely post Reuben! When a tree in our community pulled out of the ground and leaned on the "overhead wires" along a fairly busy road, our association board considered calling the management company first. Fortunately, they chose the better course of action and alerting the utility. It took about 24 hours, but the utility removed the tree safely.   

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) over 7 years ago


I learned something new from your post.

Thank you so much.

Now I can say, "Make sure the service drop doesn't have dangerous ferrules!"


Posted by Phil Leng, Phil Leng - Retired (Retired) over 7 years ago

Anne - and they did this at no charge, I assume?

Phil - well done!  (big grin) 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

I never knew the official name of those.  LOL.  I htink both the power companies and tree guys are super busy this week in our area.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Being zapped or without power is never fun. Great illustrations.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 7 years ago

Very informative. Would not want to be the homewoner that had to take care of that.

Posted by K.C. McLaughlin, Realtor, e-PRO, Homes for Sale - Cary, Raleigh NC (RE/MAX United) over 7 years ago

Fortunately, more and more utility service is being relocated underground, which eliminates these kinds of problems.

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 7 years ago

Debbie - yeah, I heard you have a little mess out there.

Andrew - thanks.

K.C. - agreed.  That photo above would probably be for a tree removal service; not just a little trimming.

Richard - for new construction, it's pretty much standard.  For old houses, which is most of my work, it's almost all overhead wires. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

This is a big deal and you're right, I see it all the time too.  Wow, that masthead sure is connected well!  This stuff gets reported when needed.  Fortunately the newer homes have buried power sources.

And what's a roof rake again?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good things to keep an eye out for. Here in New York, Con Edison will trim trees that they feel are a danger to the power lines. All you have to do is notify them that you think there is a problem, and they will send someone out.

Posted by Donald Reich (Prudential Centennial) over 7 years ago

Reuben, I think most homeowners probably never even think about the overhead power lines coming into the house. Good catch!

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

Reuden, I've seen most of those issues on houses our contracting company deals with.  Homeowners should take a look at their overhead service periodically to make sure it's safe.  They should also check their underground services to make sure the conduit betweent the meter and the sweep haven't separated.  That's a regular problem in this area.  An adjustable sleeve can remedy that for good.  Good post!!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 7 years ago

I guess most folks would never know about these wiring problems unless they get on the roof and look over the connections.  It is good to have someone who knows what they are doing check them out.  Great pictures!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Very timely post indeed.  That first photo looks like the tree in my front yard, that has the wires going through it - luckily the wires don't look like the ones in your photo.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 7 years ago

This is a timely post as I'm sure a lot of homeowners are dealing with the after math of downed trees here on the East Coast. 

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 7 years ago

This doesn't seem to be the type of problem that can be ignored and having somebody come in who knows what they are doing and how to fix it properly will be a great asset for any new buyer or homeowner trying to buy or sell their home.

Posted by Eileen Hsu, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 7 years ago


 Great post. There was a man in Seattle that was doing hot tar and hit the power lines with his mop and lost his arms from electrocution. That is an unfused conductor at that point and so you are getting all the juice from the transformer(usually around 600 amps). That will have a bad bite.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Very nicely done. I am aware of this and been wondering about it. Timely post for me...thank you

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 7 years ago

Timely post. It is always a question of who is responsible for what part and up until where.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) over 7 years ago

Reuban - this is timely advice for us on the East Coast here after our Irene debacle. Thanks for sharing this information with us all. I learn something new everyday here... :-)

Posted by Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618, Bergen County NJ Real Estate (Keller Williams Valley Realty) over 7 years ago


Good information.  Clamps and ferrules, what do they mean.  I guess I don't need to know what they are but if they are exposes it spell trouble.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 7 years ago

Reuben these "naked" utility company splices are perhaps one of the most dangerous things we find (routinely) as home inspectors.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Reuben, thank you for this information, I have people looking a few homes where the electricity enters like you suggest.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 7 years ago

You have to be very careful showing homes too.   Sometimes there are hazards like these that you can just happen upon.

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay - speaking of loose mast heads... this was from today's inspection :)

A roof rake is a special leaf rake that's shaped like a roof.  You see, it has these special... yar...  

Donald - I've heard that same tactic will work with the utility company in my area too, but I haven't tested it myself.

Michael  - judging by what I see, I'm sure you're right.

Mike - excellent point about the underground service.  That would be a good topic for a future blog.

Gary - thanks :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Christine  - yeah, I hear a lot of people are dealing with this issue right now.

Morgan - I've seen some of the photos - what a mess.

Eileen - exactly.  

Donald - Absolutely.  One of my sister's former hockey coaches was electrocuted while helping a neighbor, when his aluminum ladder touch the line.  It's a serious safety issue.

Richie - glad to help.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Mike - exactly.  I finally have a link I can put in my inspection reports about this topic.

Lisa & Robert - thanks.

Evelyn - a ferrule is the clamp that attaches the cables together with a crimp connection.

Charles - absolutely.  See my comment to Donald in the note above.

Chris - you bet :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Good Morning Ruben, excellent input for home owners who have aerial power service.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) over 7 years ago

Great, thanks for the post...

Posted by Roof contractors minneapolis over 7 years ago

Great post with detailed photos, Reuben! Exposed service points and tree limbs growing into power lines are very dangerous! I just wrote this one up at yesterday's inspection!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) over 7 years ago