It’s one of the major conveniences of modern day living. You flip a switch, and the lights go on or off. Have you ever considered how that electricity makes its way along the grid and to your plug point? There are two ways to transport electricity – underground electricity and overhead electricity cables. 

You are probably already familiar with the latter but how much do you know about underground power lines? Is there a difference between the electricity cables we use for overhead power lines and the underground ones?  

What direction are UK power lines heading in? In this post, we will tell you the different between the 2 types of electricity connection cables, and you can decide for yourself which is better.  

Differences 

Which option is used will depend on the area, the voltage required, budget, safety, what application it will be used for and a range of other factors. Let’s look at the differences.  

You will normally find that a combination of cables is used. In cities where the population is densely concentrated, the power lines will normally be placed underground for safety sake. This will be done when it is not possible to install them overhead.  

Cost 

Where possible, it is more cost effective to run the cables above the ground. These connections are a lot easier to install, check issues with and make upgrades to.  

Construction 

Cables that run below the surface are more susceptible to mechanical and moisture damage, corrosion and similar environmental issues. The cables must be insulated, sheathed and dug into the ground. Overhead cables, though they seem more exposed, are less prone to these forms of damage.  

The difference between underground electricty and overhead electricity cables

Installation 

It is a lot easier to stick a pole in the ground and string the wires overhead than it is to put those wires underground. When installing underground, you have to also take cognisance of water and utility lines, soil structure, etc.  

Heat Dissipation 

This one will probably come as no surprise. A cable that is out in the open is able to disperse heat more effectively than one that is buried. Buried cables have a higher chance of overheating. That means that they require larger conductors to carry the same load.  

Capacity 

If you want to carry a bigger charge, you need to ensure that the heat dissipates effectively. So, overhead cables are better when a higher voltage is required.  

Maintenance 

Finding faults and repairing the lines when they are out in the open is a lot simpler.  

Safety 

This is one area where buried cables shine. Unless you actually dig into them, you have little to no chance of actually coming into contact with them. Strung cables, on the other hand, can be felled during storms, vegetation falling, etc. leaving them lying exposed on the ground.  

Conclusion 

Which option is better? It all depends on the situation. Most of the time, you will see a combination of both methods being used. While the lines out in the open are easier to maintain and can hold higher voltage, they are unsightly. 

Buried cables are safer but less effective at dissipating heat and difficult to maintain. Neither method can thus be said to be completely right, or completely wrong.

Read next article: All about temporary electricity connection 

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