Electric Distribution Poles: What Do They Do?

Electric distribution poles are so ingrained in our landscape that we don’t even notice them. But, our modern lives would not exist without them.

There are 160 million utility poles in the United States. They span large open spaces, cities, and small towns. Their mysterious tangle of electric wires, boxes, and gadgets can be hard to figure out. Keep reading to learn more about electric distribution poles and what they do.

What Is an Electric Distribution Pole?

Driving around, you may have noticed slight differences between the types of electric poles in your neighborhood. This is because different poles serve different purposes. The largest electric poles are transmission poles. They can range from 55 feet to over 100 feet tall. Their role is to carry electricity from regional to local substations.

This means they carry electricity for much farther distances and can carry voltages over 100,000 volts. They are often made of steel or concrete or look a bit like a metal tower. Electric distribution poles are the most common sight in your neighborhood. They are made of treated wood to protect them from insects and the weather. They last for up to 50 years before they need replacing.

Their standard size is 40 feet. However, you will only see 34 feet as the rest is under the ground to provide stability. The role of these electric poles is to distribute electricity from the local substation to homes and businesses in the area. They carry an average of 12,000 volts.

Some utility poles will serve several purposes at once. An electric pole can house both transmission and electric distribution wires. However, the transmission lines will be higher up. Some poles will also carry telephone and cable wires.

Electric Distribution Poles

Electrical Distribution Pole Design

There are several components to a utility pole, which distributes power to homes and businesses. Aside from the basic wooden pole, there will also be one or several wooden cross-arms which hold up the wires. Different uses will dictate how many wires the pole holds. For example, a house will only use one wire while commercial buildings, which need more energy, will have three. The wires are held by insulators, preventing them from coming into contact with the pole or cross-arm.

Lightning Arresters

You might notice one or more cylindrical devices that look like they have a series of discs stacked together. This is a lightning arrester. It protects the equipment from a surge of power if the pole is struck by lightning. The arrester acts as a conductor that sends the surge of energy from lightning towards the ground.


Another large cylindrical cylinder on an electric pole is the transformer. The transformer converts the electricity to a lower level needed in your home or business. This is usually around 240 volts.


A capacitor bank stores power and prevents the wastage of electricity. They assure more efficient operation of the distribution feeder systems.

Cut-out fuse

Near the lightning arrester is the cut-out. This little device falls open when there is a problem as a visual sign to show where a line needs servicing or has a fuse problem. If a tree falls on a power line, the cut-out will stop the flow of energy.

Get the Right Electric Distribution Poles

Without electricity, there would be no smartphones, computers, or refrigerators. Electric distribution poles are vital components of modern life that allow us to use electricity without even thinking about it.

Contact us or call us today at 877-324-0909 for your electrical power pole supplies.