Tree trimming for safety, reliability and the trees' health
Did you know trees are the leading cause of power outages?
That’s why Tampa Electric designed a tree trimming program that minimizes tree conflicts and maximizes tree health and power reliability. To ensure we maintain a balance between nature and reliability, we only employ certified Arborists and degreed Foresters to oversee our tree-trimming activities. Based on our successful record, we’ve been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation™, in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters, as a Tree Line USA utility for the past 15 consecutive years.
Safety first around trees
Only qualified tree contractors should trim trees in general, and especially around power lines. Report tree limbs that may interfere with electric service.
Why preventative vegetation management is important
Tampa Electric conducts vegetation management as part of our commitment to providing our customers with safe and reliable electric service. Trees in contact with electrical conductors are often problematic. Electrical outages, momentary interruptions, electrically induced fires, personal property damage, and even personal injury are potential outcomes. As with most utilities, trees are among the leading causes of power outages on the Tampa Electric system. Tampa Electric's Vegetation Management program is designed to minimize tree conflicts while maximizing system reliability.
In our commitment to safety, we strictly follow OSHA guideline ANSI Z – 133, which states that only qualified line clearance tree trimmers shall perform tree trimming within the 10-foot approach space of an electrical utility line.
In addition to making tree safety around power lines a top priority, we encourage you to follow these guidelines:
- Overhead/underground line clearance. Overhead power lines on or near your property can interact with trees, causing power surges and other potential risks. Underground cables can also come into contact with the root systems of trees. Don't plant shrubs or flowers around electric transformers, which are located on the ground in a metal box on a concrete or plastic base.
- Refer to our tree planting & safety guide to learn how the right trees – planted and maintained safely – can help make our community beautiful.
- Digging can be dangerous. Safety is the most important thing to remember when working with trees large and small. Be sure to call 811 before you dig on your property to plant or move a tree. Learn more at the call before you dig page.
- Watch your antenna. Install TV, satellite or radio antennas away from power lines – at least the height of the antenna plus an extra 10 feet.
- Play it safe. Educate your children about electrical safety and make them aware of overhead power lines. If your kids plan to fly a kite, make sure they're in an open field away from electrical lines. Wet and dirty kite strings can conduct electricity.
Please keep service wires clear of vegetation
While it is Tampa Electric's service responsibility to handle actual repairs to service wires, it is the responsibility of individual customers to keep their service wires clear of vegetation. Vegetation that comes into contact with electrical infrastructure such as service wires can cause power interruptions or more dangerous situations.
Tampa Electric's contract tree crews regularly evaluate service wires during routine maintenance. If there's a mechanical strain on the wire, crews may trim at that time. In some instances, further work by the customer is required in order to fully clear the service wire.
Tampa Electric will, upon customer request, de-energize (or "drop") the service wire to allow for the safe completion of such work. Only licensed and trained professionals should trim trees near power lines and other energized equipment. We urge those trimming trees near power lines to exercise extreme caution to prevent serious injury or death.
Electric service for you home and community is important. So are your trees. When we trim trees growing too near or into power lines, we prioritize both. To maintain reliability and tree health, Tampa Electric adheres to the Florida Administrative Code, Chapter 366, Public Utilities Statute 366.04, National Electric Safety Coe (NESC) Section 21, Part 2, Rule 218 and the American National Standards Institute pruning standards (ANSI) A300, Part 1, Part 7 and Z-133, as well as the special companion publication, Best Management Practices – Utility Pruning of Trees.
How we prune trees
Tampa Electric uses qualified professional tree trimming contractors that follow ANSI A – 300 and OSHA guidelines to manage the vegetation around our electrical facilities. To accomplish this, we use two types of pruning:
- Lateral Pruning: removal of tree limbs at natural detachment points to help facilitate healing around the pruning site.
- Directional Pruning: the deliberate attempt to remove those limbs growing towards the conductors and to train the tree to grow away from electrical facilities.
Cutting limbs to proper laterals helps minimize re-sprouting, which reduces the amount of re-growth into electrical facilities. Pruning to a proper lateral does not harm the tree's natural defense systems. Instead, this helps protect the tree from decay. Note: is not our primary intent to trim the whole tree or to trim for aesthetic purposes.
Importance of routine pruning
A tree that is not maintained on a routine cycle will assume its normal form, which may put it in danger of coming into contact with electrical infrastructure, resulting in the need to extensively prune or remove the tree.
Minimize the number of cuts
Tampa Electric's tree trimming crews work to minimize the number of pruning cuts to a tree in order to prevent serious injury to the tree. The intent with quality vegetation management is to remove whole branches that are growing toward utility facilities. When clearance distances are specified (for example, 10 feet) the cut should be made at the next suitable lateral of parent limb beyond the specified distance.
Directional pruning (also known as natural pruning) is most effective when tree characteristics such as size, shape and expected growth rate are taken into consideration. Proper directional pruning of trees growing directly beneath facilities (left) or beside them (right) helps direct future tree growth away from the facilities.
Removal of overhanging vegetation may or may not be necessary, depending on the type of utility facility, tree species and other factors. Overhang is never acceptable over high-priority facilities such as high-voltage electric transmission lines.
Rounding over and stubbing
Rounding over, topping or stubbing severely damages trees (see diagram at left) is a discredited practice. Many tree species respond to this type of pruning with a flush of fast-growing sprouts, which can rapidly overtake facilities (right).
Many palm species grow large enough to affect utility facilities. Their large fronds sway in the wind and may break free, causing damage to equipment. Palms cannot be reduced in height or directionally pruned like other trees. The best solution for palms interfering with utility facilities is removal or relocation.
*Source: Best Management Practices Utility Pruning of Trees - Special companion publication to the ANSI A300 Part 1: Tree, Shrub, and Other Woody Plant Maintenance - Standard Practices, Pruning. Copyright International Society of Arboriculture. Used with Permission. International Society of Arboriculture, P.O. Box 3129, Champaign, Il 61826-9411.
Whenever you plant trees, it's important to consider where to plant them – and to make sure you're planting the right trees. Refer to our tree planting & safety guide for help.
Planting responsibly around electrical infrastructure
While we use pruning methods that prioritize the health of trees, you can do your part by planting trees and shrubs appropriate distances from power lines, transformers and other types of electrical equipment. Because city and county guidelines for planting vary, be sure to check those that apply to your community. To determine the location of Tampa Electric and other underground utility service lines in Florida, call toll-free 811.
Better reliability through managed and well-placed vegetation means fewer power interruptions for you and your neighbors. More importantly, trees that touch power lines can create dangerous situations. In general, only licensed professionals should prune trees. That's especially true with trees near electrical infrastructure. Our crews are just a website form or phone call away – so let us know if you see trees growing into power lines.
Energy efficiency and more As with safety and reliability, one of Tampa Electric's top priorities is helping our customers save energy. We have numerous programs, many of them free, that can help. Trees also can make a difference.
Did you know that planting deciduous trees, which lose their leaves for part of the year, on the east and west sides of your home can cool it by up to 10 degrees in summer and warm it by 10 degrees in winter? Shading your air conditioning unit with trees can help it run more efficiently, reducing your electricity consumption by up to 10 percent. You can gain additional benefits by shading sidewalks, driveways and patios.
When planting, go native – or at least Florida-friendly
It's important for the sake of the trees you plant, as well as the environment, to plant native trees as much as possible and to avoid planting invasive species. Native plants are better suited to local growing conditions. Invasive species, on the other hand, can grow out of control and choke out beneficial species.
Florida-friendly plants are those that, while not native to the state, grow well in the appropriate regions and zones. With the right native and Florida-friendly vegetation, you not only have species more likely to thrive, but also plants and shrubs that need less water, fertilizer and overall care.
Tree Trimming FAQ
A. This can depend on several factors, including tree canopy, age and type of equipment, activity of wildlife among other things.
A. Trees are among the leading causes of power outages. Trees can cause outages, momentary interruptions or fires. Our tree-trimming program is designed to minimize tree conflicts while maximizing system reliability.
A. Tampa Electric will be able to trim trees more frequently, as appropriate, which should limit the potential for tree debris to cause outages during extreme weather events. This plan includes trimming up to 700 additional miles of trees each year.
A. Tampa Electric employs certified arborists and degreed foresters to oversee its tree-trimming activities.
In addition, all tree contractors are line-clearance qualified arborists. Tampa Electric has been awarded the Tree Line USA designation for 15 consecutive years.
A. Tampa Electric complies with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. We primarily use two types of pruning, which meet those standards:
- Lateral Pruning: removal of tree limbs at natural detachment points to help facilitate healing around the pruning site.
- Directional Pruning: the deliberate attempt to remove those limbs growing towards the conductors and to train the tree to grow away from electrical equipment.
Cutting limbs to proper laterals helps minimize sprouting, which reduces the amount of re-growth into electrical equipment. Pruning to a proper lateral does not harm the tree's natural defense systems. Instead, this helps protect the tree from decay.
A. Trees can interfere with overhead power lines on or near your property, causing power surges and other potential risks. Underground cables can also come into contact with the root systems of trees.
You and your neighbors can help by avoiding planting shrubs or flowers around electric transformers, which are located on the ground in a metal box on a concrete or plastic base. Refer to our tree planting & safety guide to learn how the right trees – planted and maintained safely – can help make our community beautiful.
For digging projects large and small, Florida law states that property owners and excavators MUST call 811 or go to sunshine811.com at least two full business days prior to digging to get underground utility lines marked at the dig site.
Here's the step-by-step process of exactly how it works. Failure to call 811 before digging results in Floridians unintentionally hitting underground utility lines, which can lead to injury, penalties, repair costs, and inconvenient utility service interruptions.
View the color code for marking underground utility lines established by the American Public Works Association.