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Author Topic: Looking at a home near high tension lines  (Read 3808 times)

Posts: 24

« on: October 04, 2002, 09:11:15 AM »

I (like many of you were once) find myself as a new college graduate and newbie engineer looking to buy a house before I get married in a few months.  Of course, I cannot afford my own 100 acre lot with half-million dollar dream house, so I am actively looking on the used market.

One of the big criteria in a home is the ability to put up antennas as I see fit (no CCR's).  Luckily, I have found many nice homes that are in older neighborhoods that don't carry such restrictions.  I recently came across a nice 1800 sq ft home on about an acre lot.  It is in a group of homes just outside of town, and each home is surrounded by trees so you have some privacy.  The problem: there are a set of high-tension power lines about 1/2 mile away.  Is the proxemity of these lines going to pretty much rule out my ham activities?  How can I tell exactly how much noise is out there?  

I would really appreciate it if anyone can share some insight on this dilemma.  While I'm only active on VHF/UHF now, I want to keep my options open for HF in the future.

Thanks in advance,


Posts: 21764

« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2002, 11:23:23 AM »

You're so fortunate to be looking now, and questioning such things in advance.

Obviously, the best advice would be to look elsewhere for a similar home that's farther away from the HT lines.  If that's impossible for some reason, I'd do the following:

-Carry a portable AM BC radio around the neighborhood to see how bad the noise really is -- usually, line noise is worst at lower frequencies and lessens as you go up the spectrum; although, I've seen it very bad on six and two meters, too.

-Knock on a few neighbors' doors and ask if they've had any problems at all with television or radio reception, or anything else, based on the proximity of the HT lines.  Of course, they'll wonder why you're asking, and you might want to tell them you're considering buying a home in the neighborhood and are worried about the proximity of the lines.  I'd keep the explanation as short and simple as that, without going into any details about ham radio -- for now.

There are hazards associated with being near and under such lines, some obvious and some not so.  The obvious hazard is what might happen in a windstorm, icestorm, blizzard, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, any of which could cause towers and lines to shake and eventually fail.  We've all seen this happen at least in news reports, and I've seen it up quite closely in real time, during the Northridge earthquake in 1994 (Los Angeles).  It's quite exciting, if you're far away -- and horrifying if you're close by.

The "other" hazards remain to be resolved or even proven, e.g., the ones about HT field exposure causing certain types of cancer.  It may be many years before the scientists have any hard data on that one, but it's a point to ponder, in the meantime...


Posts: 24

« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2002, 01:08:29 PM »

Thanks for the ideas!

Its a good idea to ask others living in the area if they experience any interference.  I know from reading plenty of postings on sites like eHam that some lines are kept in good condition and some are very RF noisy.

I have read some research about the EM fields around those lines, and actually I've played around a bit with a milliGauss meter.  If I knew the current carried by those lines I could estimate the field strength 1/2 mi away and see how that compared to some of the "suggested safe" levels people have proposed.

This will be my first house, and already I can see how it can be difficult to find quality housing that still allows antenna installations Sad  It strengthen's my position towards always buying older houses:  1) older houses are found in older, settled subdivisions that most likely were established before CCR's became "fashionable"  2) older houses have alot of the kinks worked out, most any major construction screwup is revealed within 5yrs.

Anyway, thanks again for your advice Smiley


Posts: 21764

« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2002, 05:30:38 PM »

You're wise to have concluded that older homes are usually the right way to go for prospective active amateurs.  I completely agree with you about the benefits of older home ownership, having been on all sides of this matter (and having owned brand-new construction homes, historic homes and everything between).

My XYL was easily convinced.  New house: Rounded corner plasterwork, no hardwood moldings, energy-efficient but ugly windows, no hardwood fireplace mantels.  Old house: Gorgeous corner moldings everywhere, energy-inefficient but beautiful windows, hand-carved hardwood matel work, etc.  No comparison.  Of course, in a new custom home, you can get whatever you want for a price, but often the workmanship, at any price, just isn't what I'd hope for.  In the older homes, it is.

Of course, a truly old home may need to be re-piped (replacing cast iron with copper), and so forth, but these are not expensive jobs that only take a few days, and can often be done before moving in, so there's no mess to deal with.  To me, that's part of the fun!  The older homes I've purchased were all re-piped before I bought them, but if they weren't, that wouldn't have stopped me from forging ahead.

What I love about older homes in settled neighborhoods is the landscaping -- the gardening's been done for decades and usually is just great, and ditto the neighborhood.  Mature trees are great for hanging dipoles and hiding towers.  Neighbors all know each other, schools are established, and traffic patterns are well known and not changing.

I'm with you, no more "new" houses for me, ever again!

Now, about the high-tension lines: Do ask about interference, the neighbors are likely to be very honest in their replies.  You might also check into the local electric utility company, and check their record for any complaints to the PUC, FCC or other agencies -- it's all public record.

Inspect your own AC drop lines, messenger cable, and insulators, and if you can, inspect your own pole transformer, wiring and insulators (using binoculars -- you shouldn't be climbing up utility poles).  If they all look well maintained, that's a good sign.  If insulation all shows cracks and signs of lots of wear without maintenance, that's not a good sign.

My own home, purchased only two years ago, was built in 1957 and had old & ugly utility drops.  I had them all replaced, including the cable TV drop line and telephone drop lines, before I moved in.  Cost = Zero.  Didn't pay a dime for any of this, the utilities did the work for free, upon my request.

73 & happy home ownership!



Posts: 13


« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2002, 10:49:23 AM »

Noise from High Tension wires......Certainly depends on the conditions of the lines and how well the utility maintains them. Power utilties send data through these high tension lines and this can create some horrific noise on HF.....Borrow a FT-817 if you can to poke around for noise on HF. Scan the entire spectrum from 1.8 to 50 MHz. Weather plays a big role in power line noise. Try poking around on cold and warm days if you can under different weather conditions(Wet and dry). I have been fighting RFI from many different sources for years....Neon lighting...bad sign ballasts....power line noise from the typical 5KV neighborhood power lines.....Certainly recent news from the FCC and the fact that Riley has pushed the resolution of power line noise issues back into the utility's face is a very good thing.....I have started a web page dedicated to just RFI issues....If anyone has any contributions, I would love to hear from them.

73 Stephanie WX3K

Stephanie WX3K

Technical Specialist - EPA

Posts: 756

« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2002, 01:11:01 PM »

Mark, hi. Steve has good advice. I have had extensive problems with power line noise (enough to write a book!). A recent "ask the Dr." section in QST asked this very question. The answer reflected my experience..... The large, metal high voltage lines are pretty problem free, as long as you don't live right under one! You are more likely to have problems with the neighborhood distribution lines that utilize wood poles. At the last QTH, I had a horrible noise problem on 50 mhz. The worst possible conditions were dry, windy days. Rain, fog, damp days were fine. The local utility company had no clue. I politely asked that a tech with an rf sniffer be sent out. They came a couple of times while I was at work, but finally I was there when they started sniffing. Turned out to be an arcing piece of rusty hardware at the other end of the neighborhood. The noise propagated to my location. On hf, I never experienced problems. On 6, I used a high gain antenna and a good receiver(s).

I also found some troublesome joints.
If you have access to a small am/ssb handheld receiver, (I have an Icom R-10), you will be in business. Although this type of noise seems to be worst at 40 mhz or so, antennas are too big to lug around. Get a small piece of PVC, a Handbook, and make a cheap 432 mhz yagi of 7-8 elements. Yes, the noise will be that high. This size antenna lets you hold onto the boom past the reflector and is a piece of cake to aim and point. The bonus is that the noise will be reduced enough at this frequency without overwhelming the radio.

Good luck and email me directly if you wish.



Posts: 527

« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2002, 08:12:13 AM »

Stay clear least 1 mile. There are many
complications with HAM Radio and High Tension
power lines. Too many to discuss here. The
best advise is to stay clear of these, broadcast
stations, (AM,FM,TV,Pager,cellular, etc.) and
any public safety sites and airports, especially
the flight path. This covers an amazing amount of
area. Find a hill or wide open flat spot. Be
careful to stay out of holes and low spots.
 73 and Good luck!

Posts: 9

« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2003, 05:32:50 PM »

When I was shopping for a home, I had my IC706 in my car. I tuned the HF frequencies while at the prospective home and listened for noise. Maybe you can asked someone who has a mobile HF station to help you check out possible QTH's. If you have a choice go for more land and less house. The farther away from neighbors, the better. Also, do not believe what real estate agents tell you re: restrictions, etc. They have been known to tell a fib or two.  Good luck.
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