Should I buy a house near a high-voltage power line?
Friday, June 22, 2018
There are two big concerns that people have about buying a house adjacent to a high-voltage power line, so let’s take them one at a time.
- Increased cancer risk - Power lines emit a low-frequency EMF (electromagnetic field), which is considered relatively safe compared to high-frequency EMF, such as x-ray radiation. There were research studies done during the 1990s on the risk of exposure to power sources such as power lines, electrical substations, and home appliances; and, while some of the studies showed a possible link between exposure to a strong EMF field and increased risk of childhood leukemia, others did not, and the findings indicated that the correlation between low-frequency EMF exposure and childhood cancer was weak. Also, scientists could not find a mechanism by which the EMF exposure could cause cancer. So, barring some new development, power lines do not cause cancer.
We are all bombarded daily with electromagnetic fields from home appliances, cell phones, wifi, radio, and even remote controls. The exposure from some appliances is even higher than power lines, but brief. Probably part of the problem with power lines is that they can look ominous, and there’s also the buzzing sound that’s noticeable when you are nearby.
- Reduced property value - They may not cause cancer, but high-voltage power lines are definitely ugly. Multiple studies of property values of homes within sight of big power lines show a decreased value of the real estate of up to 10%, and averaging around half of that. For more on this, see our blog post Do nearby high-voltage power lines a lower home’s value?
There is even one advantage to living near high-voltage transmission lines: lightning protection. The support tower and upper level of wires act as a lightning rod to protect homes in a wide radius from a lightning strike.
At The Villages, Florida, where we live, the developer put golf courses and a nature preserve under a high-voltage power line that runs diagonally across the community, with landscaping, lakes, and meandering paths. Homes facing the power lines sell at a premium, but that is not the case elsewhere.
So, if you buy a home near a power line, it will not affect your health, but will likely impact your property value when you sell.
If you are financing a home with an FHA loan, you may not be able to get loan approval if it's too near a high-voltage power line. Their appraisal guidelines specify that “no dwelling or related property improvement may be located within the engineering (designed) fall distance of any pole, tower or support structure of a high-voltage transmission line, radio/TV transmission tower, microwave relay dish or tower or satellite dish (radio, TV cable, etc.). For field analysis, the appraiser may use tower height as the fall distance.” They define a high-voltage line as “a power line that carries high voltage between a generating plant and a substation.” Local distribution and service lines are not included.
The Veterans Administration (VA) state their restriction differently, that “no part of any residential structure may be located within a high voltage electric transmission line easement. Any detached improvements even partially in a transmission line easement will not receive value for VA purposes.”
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