Tips for landscaping around transformers

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T&D_Padmount Landscaping_example

“Gee, it sure would be great to camouflage that green metal box in my yard,” you think to yourself while planning your landscaping project.

Wait! That green metal box, called a padmount transformer, is a vital part of your electric service. And there are specific guidelines to follow when planting near them.

A padmount transformer is a locked steel cabinet mounted on a concrete pad. It contains a securely grounded, energized connection for one or more customers. These transformers are part of underground distribution systems. They are used at service drops to step down a line’s primary voltage to a lower voltage used in your home.

OPPD crew members repair a padmount transformer using a "hot stick." Proper landscaping around the transformer makes the repair easier.
OPPD crew members repair a padmount transformer using a “hot stick.” Proper landscaping around the transformer makes the repair easier.

Like most equipment, padmount transformers require periodic maintenance. They also may need attention when OPPD crews are working to restore service during a power outage.

To that end, in order to work safely on these units, OPPD crews need at least 10 feet of clearance in front of the transformer (the side that is padlocked). They also need three feet of clearance on two sides and at least one foot of clearance on the fourth side.

Crews need this space to use an eight-foot-long “hot stick” to disconnect the power source on energized padmounts. Other clearances are necessary to perform other repairs.

T&D_Padmount Landscaping_distance diagramFences, shrubs and trees located too close to the padmount transformers can slow restoration or create a serious safety hazard. If these items are in the way, crews may have to remove them to gain access. Avoid that situation by taking time to plan before planting shrubs or installing a fence near a padmount.

You can place fences near a padmount transformer as long as you meet minimum clearances. Remember to avoid blocking the front side. If a fence runs along that side, a gate that swings away from the transformer front must be installed, as shown above.

what to plant

When planning what to plant near the transformer, consider the mature size and spread of a shrub or tree, which varies by species. This list includes compact varieties of popular shrubs that are safe to plant near a padmount transformer.

Deciduous shrubs

Dwarf American cranberry bush (viburnum) – flowers and fruit
Bronx forsythia – yellow spring flowers, can be cut back to rejuvenate
Emerald mound honeysuckle – can be rejuvenated, but aphids can be a problem
Dwarf winged euonymus – fall color
Kelsey redosier dogwood – colorful winter stems
Dwarf Korean lilac – spring flowers, can be rejuvenated
Anthony waterer (spirea)– can be rejuvenated
Spreading cotoneaster – fall color

Evergreen shrubs

Densiform yew
Runyon yew
Armstrong juniper
Seagreen juniper
Compact mugo pine

Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

4 thoughts on “Tips for landscaping around transformers”

  1. What if a neighbor plants shrubs less than 18″ from a transformer on 3 sides including the opening side?

  2. The question was published on Nextdoor.com by a resident who had a hose bib about 1 ft from a padmount transformer. She had been advised to remove the faucet ad cap the supply pipe.
    What are the rules about proximity and safety that she should follow. I suspect she should move the hose bib supply line but how safe is it to dig in the vicinity?

    1. Hi George,
      National Electric Code guidelines for residential wiring require at least 6.5 feet of distance from any water source. A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) would need to be installed on the electrical equipment to provide protection. Since we have no facility to add a GFCI to a transformer, we feel it is imperative that the water line be relocated to a safer location. Before moving the water line, she must first call Nebraska 811 to locate any underground facilities that may be impacted. If you or she have any further questions, please contact Mark Pohl, supervisor of our Electrical Service Designers, at 402-552-5339.

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