A transformer box plays a crucial role in city infrastructures, stepping down high-voltage electricity to a lower voltage to safely power homes. However, if it happens to be in your yard, you can try these six techniques to hide it from view and improve your property’s appearance.
What to Consider Before Hiding the Transformer Box
Before you install a fence or plant a garden, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Leave Plenty of Space
Utility workers will perform scheduled maintenance on the transformer box. They may also need to access it during bad weather, at night or during a time-sensitive emergency.
Therefore, strict laws govern how much space to leave around the transformer box. The side with the padlock on it usually needs 10 feet of clearance in front, while two of the sides need three feet of clearance and the remaining side needs one foot.
Utility workers require this clearance so they can use an eight-foot-long hot stick to disconnect the power on an energized transformer box. To determine how much space to leave around your transformer box, look for a label on the box or call your local utility company.
It may also be illegal to fully enclose the transformer or lock it inside a fenced area. If utility workers cannot access the transformer box, they can dismantle your fence or landscaping without your permission.
2. Call Before You Dig
A liquid transformer can reach up to 1,000,000 volts, so accidentally cutting or even touching the underground wires near the transformer box could kill or injure you. It could also lead to neighborhood power outages. Before planting anything near the transformer box, call the utility company to determine how deep — and how close to the box — you’re allowed to dig.
3. Leave the Top Uncovered
A transformer box gives off heat and needs plenty of ventilation. Therefore, never enclose the box inside a shed or any other structure with a roof — always leave the top open. Doing so prevents the transformer from exploding and extends its life span.
4. Resist the Urge to Paint
Although it can be tempting to paint that camo-green transformer box a shade that would match your house, most cities consider this vandalism. Like a fire hydrant, a transformer box isn’t technically your property — even if it happens to be in your yard. Touching it can also expose you to dangerously high voltage.
Instead, you’ll need to work with what you have and find other ways to hide the box from view.
How to Conceal a Transformer Box
Once the utility company gives you the all-clear, try these landscaping and design ideas:
1. Plant Grass and Shrubs
Choose decorative plants with thick, leafy foliage to hide the transformer box. Grass and shrubs are a good choice because they usually have shallower, less robust root systems than trees, whose roots can interfere with underground cables. Leave at least one side around the transformer box unplanted so utility workers can access it.
Some examples of shrubs with shallow roots include bigleaf hydrangea, hibiscus, forsythia, Chinese abelia, summer lilac and Japanese kerria. Ornamental grasses include switchgrass, purple fountain grass, Mexican feathergrass, blue oat grass, feather reed grass, little bluestem and more.
To minimize upkeep, look for plants native to your area. They require much less maintenance and will attract more birds because they host native insects. Plus, 80% of landscape architects surveyed in 2022 expected native plants to surge in popularity this year, so it’s a trendy move to make.
2. Build Raised Beds
Raised garden beds are great for several reasons. First, they don’t require any digging, so there’s no danger of accidentally coming in contact with an underground cable. You can build them high enough to block the view of the transformer box.
Additionally, raised beds allow you to garden in areas with poor soil or low humidity. You can even build them on gravel or pavement since they’re essentially giant pots. Fill them with gardening soil, compost and mulch to retain moisture and grow your own vegetable garden.
3. Use Potted Plants
Well-positioned pots can hide an unsightly transformer box. And, as with raised beds, there is no digging required.
One option is to plant vines on trellises inside pots to let them grow upward while still being portable. This method is popular for growing roses, morning glories and other plants that like support as they grow vertically.
You can choose pots in different colors, shapes and materials to create a gorgeous moveable garden. Just ensure the pots are light enough for utility workers to move quickly if the need arises.
4. Install a Fence
As long as it doesn’t enclose the box — and is far enough away to meet clearance requirements — a fence is a great way to hide a transformer box. Some homeowners opt to install a three-sided fence to screen the transformer box from view, while others go the full mile and enclose their whole yard, leaving the box outside.
Wooden fences can do double duty to protect your privacy and improve your yard’s appearance, at least from the inside of your house looking out. You should leave the transformer box visible from the street so utility workers can find it.
5. Erect Privacy Screens
Privacy screens are decorative panels meant to protect your privacy. However, they also work well for beautifying outdoor spaces. Many have slats where you can grow plants like honeysuckle, trumpet vine or passionflower, further reducing visibility and improving your yard’s appearance. Make sure any privacy screens you install are rated for outdoor use, since they tend to be sturdier.
6. Use Other Decorations
If fences and plants aren’t your style, look for different lawn ornaments to help conceal the transformer box. Some ideas include statues, boulders, water features, wind chimes and bird baths.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Electrical utilities may be necessary, but they aren’t always easy on the eyes. As long as you follow city codes and ensure technicians can still access the transformer box, there are several ways to hide it, including planting vines on a trellis, installing a fence or building raised beds.
Who knows? In the quest to hide the transformer box, you might just end up with the best-looking yard in the neighborhood.