Purchasing a new home is an exercise in living with trade offs. Yes, there are many trade offs in life, but it is unlikely that you will encounter as many associated with a single, life altering decision as you will when you are looking for that perfect place to hang your hat.
“I love the floor-to-ceiling windows…BUT they overlook a cemetery.”
“That wall would be perfect for our antique map collection…BUT it’s so thin we can hear our neighbors’ TV.”
“The two-car garage is connected to the house…BUT we have three cars…” And on and on the decision making goes…
It turns out that there is at least one additional trade off that folks should consider when purchasing a home (that they probably almost never consider). Hint: It has to do with the number of trees in your neighborhood. Maybe you’ve experienced the tranquility of driving down a tree-lined street on a clear summer day, or noticed that the air is much fresher with all of that extra oxygen floating around. Generally, a lot of trees in a neighborhood is a good thing and denser tree coverage is generally associated with wealthier neighborhoods. Even Google Maps has shown that there is a correlation between tree coverage and average income for the area. In fact, the United States Forest Service recommends planting trees to increase property value by as much as 10%!!
So what could possibly be the trade off here? Well it turns out that the more trees you have in your neighborhood, the greater the likelihood that you will experience power outages over the course of the year. Electricity is for the most part, at least in the U.S, distributed across power lines that are above ground, which makes them especially susceptible to damage. Sure, there are plenty of things that happen with the electricity before it gets to this point – it’s generated at a power station, sent over transmission lines, and through multiple substations – but 90% of outages occur from damage to distribution lines near your home1.
What’s causing these outages? Well about 78% of the outages that occur at distribution lines are due to natural weather phenomena – lightning, rain, snow, ice, wind, dust, etc.1 By some estimates, and this is dependent on your location, 60% of these outages are related to, you guessed it, trees falling on power lines because of the weather2. If you do a little math that means that roughly 42% of all outages are due to trees impacting distribution lines. I would say that that’s a considerable chunk of outages!
If there was any doubt about the amount of data that shows the average number of power interruptions across the U.S. the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has some good data to share. Match that against the tree density across the U.S. Woods Hole Research Center has a really cool National Biomass and Carbon Dataset Map. Not to spoil the ending, but it turns out that areas in the U.S. that have the most trees tend to have the most outages each year.
So, when you’re fawning over that majestic Oak tree that sits on the edge of the corner lot, just be sure that you understand the possible repercussions…
1Weather-Related Power Outages and Electric System Resiliency Report