Should you buy a house near power lines? There is a lot of emotion involved when it comes to buying a house; it needs to be in the right location, be large enough for a family and, for some buyers, the issue of overhead power lines may be off-putting.
This also extends to buying a house close to an electricity substation.
One of the issues over living close to power lines is that a study in 2002 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) looked at the evidence as to whether living close to electricity power lines would cause cancer.
They declared that there was a possible cause of childhood leukaemia for those who live near power lines – but there was not enough evidence for them to come to a clear decision.
The different types of power lines in the UK
But before we explore the issue of should you buy a house near power lines, we need to appreciate that there are different types of power lines in the UK based on their voltage level, structural features and purpose. You will see these different types either in your neighbourhood or when travelling – they aren’t all wires carried on wooden poles! The main types are:
- 400kV and 275kV power lines: These are the largest and highest voltage power lines in the UK, owned and run by the National Grid. They are carried by large, steel lattice pylons that can be seen across the countryside. They transmit electricity to regional substations from where it is generated, such as power stations or wind farms.
- 132kV power lines: These are smaller power lines, usually owned by Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). They can be carried by smaller steel pylons or wooden poles. They feed from the larger power lines and transport electricity to local substations.
- 66kV and 33kV power lines: These are also smaller power lines, owned by DNOs. They can be found on steel frames or wooden poles. They are designed to feed from the 132kV power lines and supply electricity to rural areas and towns.
- 11kV power lines: These are the smallest high-voltage power lines in the UK, usually mounted on wooden poles. They are owned by DNOs and feed from the 33kV power lines. They are often found running close to public footpaths, roads, and residential properties. They supply electricity to homes and businesses.
There are also lower voltage power lines (415 volts and 230 volts) that are used to connect consumers to the electricity network. These are usually underground cables or overhead wires attached to wooden poles.
These are the type that we have and we recently had them replaced by the electricity provider. Living in a rural location means we don’t have and underground electricity cable network to tap into. Instead, around our house are lots of poles with electrical wires.
The one directly coming to our house is a lower voltage line, then the ones a little further away are the next level up.
So, you shouldn’t automatically assume that above-ground power lines are all the same. In fact, if you live outside of an urban area, you’re much more likely to see lots of above-ground lines.
Are power lines near a house dangerous?
The findings fuelled a distrust of power lines despite experts and power companies stating there is no risk and the World Health Organisation also looked into the issue and supported the IARC’s evaluation – WHO says they found ‘no significant health issues’ at the levels the general public is being exposed to.
For those asking should you buy a house near power lines, there is no strong evidence to provide a link between cancer and living close to power lines and that should help close the debate. But it hasn’t.
Some researchers have since pointed to studies that suggest there is a potential link between the magnetic fields that power lines give off with childhood leukaemia but there is still no firm scientific evidence for this link.
Is it bad for your health to live near power lines?
The issue is that power lines emit a type of radiation that is known as extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) but there’s no explanation for how these EMFs could possibly cause leukaemia.
Indeed, a large international study in 2018 of overhead power lines and childhood leukaemia also found there was no connection with cancer – even for young people living within 50 metres of a power line.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has published a useful resource on their website that some people may find reassuring. The site has facts and figures which will reassure potential home buyers – and homeowners.
Do power lines decrease the value of a property?
Since the science cannot provide a link between living near to power lines and ill-health, the real issue about should you buy a house near power lines is down to emotions – and it is this that affects the price of a property close to a power line.
That’s because for someone selling a property close to powerlines, they may find there are fewer people willing to buy, so the house price may be reduced to reflect this.
Various surveys put this price reduction at between 2% and 9%.
Potential homebuyers can check the concentration of the electromagnetic fields and also where underground electricity cables are for a substation before they buy what could be their dream home.
When we bought our home, we didn’t see any reduction in value due to the proximity of the power lines. Though admittedly that’s because ours are the small, low-powered lines essential for connecting properties to the main supply in a rural location. Had we have been within 50m of the larger steel pylons, of course, that might have been a different story.
Finding out about the EMF
One way for a potential homebuyer to find out about the EMF is to contact the relevant power authority and ask them about the level and strength of the EMF of the powerlines close to the property they are interested in.
Also, there may be substation survey reports highlighting any potential risks for those living close by.
It also needs to be appreciated that electromagnetic fields also occur in our homes thanks to the electrical wiring and home appliances that we use.
Also, there’s no disguising the fact that we endure EMF every day from mobile phones, wifi as well as radio and remote controls.
However, these magnetic fields have low strength and other buildings and trees that are close to a substation can also help protect against the EMF.
How far away from power lines should you live?
Under the current laws, you will need to live at least 50 metres away from a power line as living within 50 metres is considered to be a safety risk.
And if you don’t see the power lines or substation on your home inspection, it is likely that a surveyor’s report will highlight the proximity of the lines or substation which may cause an issue with the mortgage provider.
For peace of mind, you can hire someone to carry out EMF readings – they will need a gaussmeter which will highlight that the EMF substantially reduces before the 50 metres threshold and continues falling the further away the reading is taken. The National Grid offers this service.
Again, we’d emphasise here the difference between the types of power line available. Living close to the large steel pylons might not be very desirable, but living near to the small lower power lines isn’t likely to be a problem – especially if you’re in a rural location.
We have power lines very close to our property, with some running almost over the top of our land. However, we don’t see them as an issue since, being rural, they are the only way to get electricity to our home.
We don’t really have any concerns about the lines falling down either as the power company have confirmed to us that they are coated lines that wouldn’t cause too much of a safety concern.
Pros and cons of living near power lines
As with all property purchases, there are pros and cons and here are some concerning buying a home close to power lines:
- Slightly lower prices to attract buyers
- You can find out easily what the EMP is
- Laws restrict how close a property can be
- More difficult to sell a property
- Potential issues with raising a mortgage
Essentially, if the property is more than 50 metres away from power lines then you should have nothing to worry about and have the opportunity of buying a dream home that may cost a little bit less than other properties in the neighbourhood.
Nor should you have any concerns if you have the smaller, low-powered lines near or even on your property – especially if you live in a rural location. This is what we have and it’s entirely normal, in fact it’s an essential part of living in the countryside if you want to be connected to the grid!
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