Knowing the differences between wood power poles and metal power poles is important – especially when considering the benefits and drawbacks of each type of power pole. There are millions of utility poles in the United States. Cost, durability, and versatility are common factors to consider when choosing the right power pole for any installation.
While you may not think much about power poles, you’ll find they matter very much to you when a windstorm snaps power poles and causes a local blackout – or your local power company is contemplating raising rates to pay for the replacement of aging utility poles!
Wood Power Poles
Though wood power poles provide the traditional means for stringing power lines and telephone lines through cities and neighborhoods, metal power poles have become more popular in recent years, especially in areas like Florida and throughout the Midwest and Plains states that comprise Tornado Alley.
Wood power poles have been used since the mid 19th century for telecommunications. You’ve probably seen the old photographs of telegraph poles standing for miles along railway lines. As telephone and electric service expanded across the nation in the first half of the 20th century, power poles sprang up across the land to handle the power needs of the country.
Many of the wood power poles you see today are over a quarter-century old. Some are far older. While a wood power pole can easily last 20 to 30 years, usually cheaper to manufacture than metal power poles, and can be installed relatively quickly, there are some downsides to using wood utility poles:
- They can degrade quickly if not coated correctly or installed in harsh environments
- Wood power poles can twist and warp with age and wear
- High winds can easily snap wood power poles
- Woodpeckers are likely to create holes in wood poles
- In general, it can be difficult to locate wood poles more than 100 feet high, which can severely limit their use in certain applications.
Metal Power Poles
Metal power poles are indeed often more expensive to make, but they provide a number of benefits over wood power poles:
- Metal power poles can last for decades, even in extreme conditions
- Metal power poles aren’t as likely to suffer warping and bending as wood power poles
- Heights of well over 100 feet can be achieved with metal power poles
- A metal utility pole can much more easily stand up against high winds than wood utility poles can
If you live in a region that regularly is threatened by severe weather, you’ll likely notice that wood power poles – especially those that stand taller than about 50 feet – are gradually being replaced by metal power poles. After all, while metal power poles can also be subject to damage or destruction under brutal winds, they generally do a much better job at keeping power lines safe (and the power on!) during strong storms for a much longer period of time.
Power Pole Aesthetics
While there are very few power poles that can be considered aesthetically pleasing, wood power poles and metal utility poles each can be dressed up to reduce their visual impact. Many wood power poles are stained to provide a pleasing appearance (and also to protect the wood from rot).
Because of their traditional use throughout the nation, wooden poles can impart a much more rustic appearance than metal poles and, therefore, are often more desirable to residents who have to have them placed in their neighborhoods.
Metal power poles, on the other hand, can be outfitted with decorative cross arms configurations. Gracefully arching members, to which the power lines are affixed, can be attached to metal wooden power poles.
Perhaps the epitome of metal power pole creativity is seen along Interstate 4 in Kissimmee, Florida, where a towering metal power pole topped with Mickey Mouse ears can be seen!
Firsthand knowledge and experience