3 minutes reading time (536 words)

The Fascinating Science Behind What Makes Power Lines Buzz

Have you ever walked out to check the mail or to a neighbor's house and heard an odd little buzzing noise when you approached a power line or transformer? Did it make you worry that something may be wrong, or were you just a little confused about why it was making noise? The truth is: it is a very commonly heard noise that is always there. This steady droning or vibration is called "mains hum," and often, it draws attention of small animals, who may creep up and investigate if you do not protect your lines. The science behind what makes power lines buzz is quite interesting to humans too!

utility poles with electrical lines along tree line at sunset

The Buzz of Invisible Power

Most likely you are aware of the simple fact that every sound made or heard is a result of vibrations. Our own voice is a type of vibration of air and vocal chords that our ears can pick up on. Electricity is an invisible element for the most part, but it still causes a vibration in the air around it. Transformers on the top of a power pole have a consistent frequency of 50-60 Hz. It is caused by stray magnetic fields and magnetostriction. On power lines, you may be hearing the corona discharge, which happens when air is surrounding the line. You may also notice a blue glow around high-powered lines, which is electricity escaping them. To better understand what causes the buzzing noise, you must look inside the transformer.

Inside a Transformer

The boxes at the top of your power pole contain copper and aluminum strips that are then wrapped around a laminated steel core. When an alternating current is added to it, the core becomes magnetized and then expands and contracts constantly. It may change a little based on the amount of power that is being used, but it is those tiny movements that create vibrations within the box. The transformer's sole purpose is to take the very high voltage electricity and transform it into an electrical current that will not fry your most sensitive electronic devices.

What Does the Buzzing Noise Mean?

The constant hum of a power line is a good thing. The only time you must worry is when the buzzing stops. It will stop if there is an interruption of some sort. Most of the time, that interruption will occur when an animal, such as a squirrel or bird encounters the transformer and interferes with it. If you happen to be near your home's transformer, you may hear a loud pop when this happens. That means the connection in the transformer is now broken, and there is no more power traveling through the stemming electric lines.

This can be problematic, so it is important for business owners and homeowners to prevent critters from tripping up the utilities and transformer components. Critter Guard systems prevent animals' access to these parts, eliminating risks of power surges and power loss in homes and businesses. Curious critters will traipse around and tamper with components, so the best thing you can do to prevent power outages is to protect your power lines and utility pole. Contact us for more information on how Critter Guard systems can work for you.

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