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What’s on that pole?

This illustration shows the basic equipment found on electric utility poles. The equipment varies according to the location and the service they provide.

  • Primary wires
    • Primary wires carry 7,200 volts of electricity from a substation. That voltage is 60 times higher than the voltage that runs through your home’s electrical outlets!
  • Surge arrestor
    • This protects the transformer from lightning strikes.
  • Neutral wire
    • The neutral wire acts as a line back to the substation and is tied to the ground, balancing the electricity on the system.
  • Secondary service drop
    • Carries 120/240-volts of electricity to consumers’ homes. It has two “hot” wires from the transformer and a bare “neutral” wire that’s connected to the ground wire on the pole.
  • Ground wire
    • The ground wire connects to the neutral wire to complete the circuit inside the transformer. It also directs electricity from lightning safely into the earth.
  • Telephone, cable TV, and fiber wires
    • These are typically the lowest wires on the pole.
  • Insulators
    • Insulators prevent energized wires from contacting each other or the pole.

Never nail posters or other items to utility poles. These create a safety hazard for lineworkers.

Original illustration by Erin Binkley


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