Overhead vs. Underground Wiring Systems “Which is better? You Decide…”

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Over the past few decades, there has been continuous growth and development of innovations in the electrical engineering industry. These innovations help provide multiple options regarding the different aspects of electrical energy distribution and consumption. Now, one of the biggest dilemmas for energy providers is the choice for the type of distribution system to use. It has been a debate on whether to opt for an Overhead Distribution or Underground Distribution System. As one of your favorite Engineering Firms, when it comes to MEP engineering service and solutions here in Houston, TX, other places within the state, and even in Alabama, allow me to provide you with some information about both types of distribution system.
Basically, the major difference between these two is their placement. Overhead electrical lines are mounted on posts, whether wooden, steel, or concrete ones, and are often plotted on the service area together with distribution transformers. On the other hand, the Underground system lines are enclosed in conduits and are often buried under the surface of the landscape.Now, there are many factors that may affect the choice of system to use in a certain area.

  • One major factor taken into consideration is the overall cost. Overhead systems have a significantly lesser initial cost than that of the underground systems. This means that the estimated cost in setting up these systems are way lesser as compared to underground systems. Various studies would show results stating that the cost of building underground systems is 3 – 10 times more expensive as compared to new overhead systems.
  • On the other hand, Underground Systems offers a safer and more aesthetically appealing environment for people. Essentially because it is located beneath walkways and streets, there is little to no chance of hazard. Also, the system does not obstruct any scenery that is present in the place which more people would prefer for their Instagram posts.
  • Other factors in consideration is the maintenancefault location, and repairs of these systems. While it is true that these things are easier done with an overhead system, the repairs of such systems are more frequent because of their susceptibility to damage caused by external factors such as lightning, wind, storms, ice, falling trees, and car accidents. Underground systems are more resistant to these damages; however, once a specific part of the system was broken or damaged, it is more difficult for the maintenance personnel to locate and repair the fault. This, in turn, causes longer outage durations.
  • Finally, the consumer density and geographical characteristics of the area are also major factors influencing the choice for the distribution system. In urban areas where the landscape is usually flat and the density of consumers is high and centralized, underground systems are much more preferred. This is especially triggered by the fact that the above-ground space in cities is either expensive or not even available. On the contrary, overhead lines are much preferred in rural areas. The reason being loops us back to the first factor in our list: COST. Imagine setting up an underground system – which is expensive in terms of setup and installation costs in an area where the distance between the very few consumers are wide. This will cost a large sum of money and the return of investment is really low.

Clearly, each of these electrical distribution system types has its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of one complements the disadvantage of the other, and vice versa.

In conclusion, economic factors such as installationmaintenance, and operation costs are greatly inclined to favoring overhead systems while non-economic factors like aesthetics and public safety greatly influence the choice for underground systems.

As the leading provider of MEP Engineering Services and Solutions here in Houston, TX, Source2Load Engineering and Consulting can provide you guidance in these aspects of the electrical industry. We can also guide you through setting up the electrical system of your very own home. Please keep an eye out for more interestingly informative blogs connected to Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering in the future. You can also browse through the other blogs that we have published for all of our readers.

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