How Close to Power Lines Should You Build a House?

Written by laura agadoni

Safety concerns, electric and magnetic fields, house resale values and building codes are considerations people must make when building a house near power lines. Regarding EMFs, after two decades of study, there is still no conclusive proof that EMFs are hazardous to your health. While closeness to EMFs is a possible cause of cancer, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, studies neither confirm nor refute this, and this remains a controversial issue today.

How Close Should You Build?

If you are building, check your state or local ordinances for rules. Each jurisdiction has different rules, and there is no national database for building codes. However, using the State of Michigan as an example, you can gain a general idea. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act require people to keep a safe distance from power lines. They determine the minimum safe distance to be the total length of the conductive object you are using to build your structure plus 10 feet. For example, if you are working with a 20-foot piece of metal, you must stay 30 feet from a power line.

Check with the National Electrical Safety Code for more information. Michigan adopted a set of their rules that call for line clearances in all directions. They require the structure you are building to be at least 25 feet from the closest part of the line. Your local jurisdiction could have similar rules.

Measures to Take Regarding EMFs

If you do not want to take a chance of living too closely to power lines because of the EMFs, you can get a Gauss meter and measure the strength of the magnetic fields. Chronic exposure to more than 2.5 milli-Gauss is too much, according to Zimbio.com. The EMF field is always higher closer to the source and diminishes the further away you get.

Resale Value

If you are deciding whether you should buy a home close to a power line, consider the increased difficulty you may have when you want to sell your house. The closer you are to a power line, the harder it may be to sell your home. An average value drop of between 1 and 10 per cent of property value occurs when your home is close enough to see the power line, according to Entrepreneur.com. This drop in home value is due to the visual unattractiveness of the lines, potential health hazards, safety concerns and possible sounds coming from the lines. If you get 200 feet from the lines, your home value will return to normal value, according to Entrepreneur.com. If trees block the view, this will also help save your home value.

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