In the lower mainland, there are thousands of homes within viewing distance (and directly beside) High-Voltage transmission lines and towers. Such transmission arrangements are called “rights of way” (ROW) by BC Hydro. There are over 74,000 Kms of Power Lines in BC.
There is a large amount of controversy surrounding these ROWs, most notably due to the EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Radiation they create. Let’s take a look at some facts:
Due to the great distances the electricity must be transmitted, a ROW will be between 69,000 to 500,000 Volts. At the high end, (250-500 Kilovolts), an audible buzzing and/or crackling sound may be noted. These voltages are obviously extremely dangerous and great care should be taken not to go anywhere near them.
Power lines may sway as much as 4 meters vertically during windy/bad weather. A fallen transmission line is disastrous, but luckily rarely occurs. If the home buyer is looking at a house directly beside a tower, this is a risk that they should take into consideration before purchasing the home.
Homes, Buildings, and even foundations may not be constructed on a ROW, or within 10 meters of one. However, golf courses (such as one in Surrey), sheds, roads, fences, and parking can be constructed with permission from BC Hydro.
EMF is a very real, physical field that is present around all electronic devices and the equipment powering them. EMF is everywhere electricity flows. However, some groups/individuals believe that EMF causes negative health effects in humans – most notably from Power Lines and “Smart Meters”, about which there has been much media coverage. There have been a number of studies performed, particularly one early study that linked childhood leukemia to EMF. Later, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) performed a study that failed to establish a link between elevated EMF levels and leukemia. Only several, long-term studies have been performed, and all have failed to establish a link between EMF and cancer.
Another suggested health effect is Hormonal disruption – there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence of Hormone-related problems in people living near power lines, however as of this article’s writing we are not aware of any conclusive studies linking the two.
The most real, empirical danger involved with overhead power lines is in the risk of contact with High-Voltage equipment, either from collapse or from accidental contact with the equipment (kites, ladders, trees, etc.)
EMF Radiation has been proven to drop dramatically over short distances, and is already present in areas without overhead power lines (such as near cell towers, microwaves, cell phones, TVs, etc). There is also (so far) no conclusive link between EMF and serious health issues. However, if you feel uncomfortable with power lines nearby you should investigate/research the issue carefully before proceeding.
A quality home inspection is a thorough visual inspection of the major systems of the home, such as Roof, Exterior, Electrical, Heating, Insulation, and Plumbing. A home inspection will not include evaluation of EMF Radiation, and you should call a specialist if you have any concerns about the property.
We inspected this property in Port Coquitlam, BC recently. It had an illegal suite, and we found a number of dangerous electrical problems from the home owner’s “DIY” project…
The sub-panel was badly corroded and had no identifying stickers or information. We can see (photo below) that it was probably salvaged from another building where is was exposed to water. Corroded or water-damaged panels are always a safety hazard, as rusted metal can overhead or arc, causing a fire.
Next, we see a corroded lug. A quick surface temperature measurement showed it was overheating.
A double tap is an illegal repair whereupon two conductors (wires) share the same breaker. It’s usually done when there are no spare locations to add another breaker. The problem? The breaker is only designed to carry one wire. If you add a second wire the connection becomes loose and the wires make poor contact. The result is overheating, and the breaker may also not perform properly. (Tripping early or late).
Below we see the real double-tap at the red arrow. Fixing a double-tap is easy – but in this case replacing the sub panel with a larger one was the best option.
The buyers purchased the property and the electrical safety upgrades are currently under way.
We inspected this house in the Steveston area of Richmond. It was constructed in the mid-70’s and had a new roof, furnace and hot water tank.
Unfortunately, the wiring had several significant problems – the original aluminium wiring was present. Aluminium wiring was used during the 60’s and 70’s, and had a history of overheating and failure. For these reasons it is currently illegal to use.
Opening the main panel, the aluminium conductors were clearly visible, along with signs of overheating (scorch marks).
This receptacle in the bedroom had scorch marks, indicating a history of arcing (sparking).
Removing the receptacle we found damaged and burnt wiring.
If you have aluminium wiring in your home, please be careful and have your electrical system checked by a qualified electrician. The buyers of this home had an electrician review the system, and he found a number of other safety and fire hazards.
We were called to inspect a unit in this condo in Central Burnaby, BC. The building was constructed in 1979 and had recently undergone a number of upgrades such as new windows, re-piping, roof, and boiler / hot water tanks.
As part of our standard inspection process, the main panel cover was removed and the wiring carefully checked. Immediately it was apparent that the neutral service conductor was scorched and overheating.
Closer investigation revealed a lack of antioxidant paste at the terminal. When an aluminium conductor is connected, an anti-oxidant paste should always be used. This is likely the cause of the failure.
Thermal Imaging of the conductor confirmed that the connection was extremely hot (the temperature in Celsius is marked below):
This connection posed a very real fire hazard, and the buyer arranged for an electrician to correct the issue right away.