ESTEEM Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English & Math



Utility poles: what they are and how they work

Utility poles are one of the most useful pieces of equipment but how do they work?

What’s that pole outside my house?

Utility poles. You’ve likely seen them on a walk or while you’re playing outside, and you may have thought to yourself, “Where does that pole get electricity from?” Or, “How does that thing work?” I will be covering that today, and our journey starts at a power plant. The power plant creates the energy, then goes to a power transformer, which inputs electricity and then outputs it with either a higher or lower amount of electricity through a transmission line that carries a high amount of electricity. After that, it goes to a substation, which lowers and distributes it to different areas throughout cities, neighborhoods, and anywhere else it reaches through the utility poles. This is called the power grid, and although all of them are extremely important, we will be focusing on the utility pole right now. So what does it do, and how does it work?

What do they do and how do they work?

Power lines power everything we know, just to name a few: light poles, our homes, and buildings near us. But how do they work? The utility pole is made up of eight main things: primary wires, neutral wires, ground wires, a telephone line, a service drop (sometimes), an insulator, a surge arrestor, and a guy wire. It sounds like a lot, but I am going to cover them and tell you what they do. Let’s start with the simple surge arrestor: The surge arrestor looks like a cylinder with discs on it, and what it does is protect the utility pole from lightning. The insulators: The primary wires carry a hazardous amount of electricity, and it would be really bad if two primary wires touched each other, sogray electric post under gray sky insulators are put in place to make sure they don’t touch each other. The service drop: The service drops job is to bring electricity to customers houses or buildings. The guy wire’s job is to add stability to the utility pole so it doesn’t fall. The ground wire takes the electricity from the lightning strikes and safely disposes of it into the earth. The primary wires carry the electricity everywhere; they can carry up to 34,500 volts, so definitely don’t touch them. Neutral wires: They function as a line back to the substation and are also tied to the ground to balance the electricity in the system. The telephone line: The telephone line. The transformer converts a high amount of voltage to a low amount of voltage, so it’s safer to use inside your house.

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