What’s on a utility pole?
by Dan Kaneko | March 1, 2023
When visiting my parents’ home in Waimalu, I often notice the utility poles lining the streets of the older subdivision where they live. You may notice it’s more common to see overhead utility lines in older communities.
While overhead lines are vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, vegetation, and motor vehicle accidents, they’re also more easily accessible and less costly to repair than underground lines. To ensure safety and reliability, Hawaiian Electric’s utility poles follow standards set by the National Electric Safety Code (NESC).
Electrical lines are always located highest up on utility poles. Large utility poles will have 46-kilovolt (kV) sub-transmission lines suspended at the top. These lines feed power to Hawaiian Electric’s substations. Below that are the primary lines, which deliver electricity to pole-mounted transformers, the cylindrical-shaped objects attached to the utility pole. On smaller utility poles that don’t have 46-kV sub-transmission lines, the power lines located highest up on the pole are primary lines.
The pole-mounted transformers lower the voltage from primary to secondary lines, which deliver electricity to a cluster of homes and businesses. For individual homes and businesses, electricity is delivered directly via secondary service drops.
Communication lines belonging to Spectrum or Hawaiian Telcom will always be the lowest utility lines on the pole. These lines are easily distinguishable because they are thicker in appearance and wrapped in a black rubber-looking conduit in contrast to the thinner power lines located higher up on the pole.
If you notice a low-hanging utility line, it’s best to report it, but you’ll want to contact the correct utility company because each company can only repair its own equipment. Recognizing the difference between a power line and a communication line can aid you in contacting the appropriate utility and will expedite the repair process.
If you do come across a low-hanging or downed power line, remember to stay at least 30 feet away and report it to our 24/7 Trouble Lines:
- Oahu: 1–855–304–1212
- Maui: (808) 871–7777
- Molokai/Lanai: 1–877–871–8461 toll free
- Hawaii Island: (808) 969–6666
Dan Kaneko is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.