Cost of Running Power Lines to New Residence

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

Whether you’re building a new house on an empty lot or you’re setting up camp in a rural area, you can expect to face more challenges than you would if you were to build in a subdivision. Depending on where you live and the land that you purchase, site development costs can vary considerably. If there’s one thing that land developers know to be true, it’s that you should always budget more for developmental costs and fees than for buying the actual land itself.

One cost that should never be disregarded is the cost of getting power to a piece of land that currently has no existing utilities, as you’re going to need power to make your new home livable. To get you started, you essentially have two options: temporary power from a local utility pole or temporary power from a portable generator. However, in most cases, the ultimate goal is to have permanent, stable power from a utility company.

The average cost of running power lines to a new residence is $37 per foot. It costs an average of $187,500 to run power lines to a new residence that is 1 mile away from the nearest lines. You can save money and spend $800 on a 3,600-watt inverter generator when you run power lines to a new residence.

When it comes to getting electricity to a parcel of land that you are developing, planning ahead and understanding all the potential costs involved is crucial to the success of your project. Continue reading for our comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about running power lines to a new residence – including, but not limited to, the costs you can expect.

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Does My Vacant Land Have Utilities?

For starters, you need to check if your vacant land already has utilities. This is one of the most important steps in the process, as it will help you determine exactly how much it’s going to cost to build on your new plot of land. In fact, it’s recommended that you find out how much it’s going to cost to bring service to your site before you even purchase the property.

If you purchased rural vacant land, your chances of already having utilities are much lower than if you purchased land in a residential area. To find out if your land has utilities, you need to know your new street address. Then, you’ll need to do some online research and make a few phone calls. If the parcel doesn’t have an address, you can use the GIS maps for your county to find out the name of the road in front of your lot, nearby intersections, and neighboring addresses.

Note: You need to know the assessor’s parcel number in order to search in the county’s GIS system. Mapright is a helpful resource to find boundary coordinates and the assessor’s parcel number for your property.

Once you have either the address or the assessor’s parcel number and the property’s specific GPS coordinates, you can do a quick online search for “[county name] power.”

Who Is My Electric Company?

Finding out what electric company serves your area isn’t always a straightforward process. You can start by asking landowners in your area who they send their checks to. If this doesn’t work, try examining the utility poles close to your property – usually the ones closest to road intersections. Oftentimes, there will be a placard that lists the name of the electric company.

The goal here is to start calling the company that you believe is the most likely candidate to ask them about your specific piece of land and if they have power lines on the road in front of your lot. If they do not provide services to your property, then you can inquire about whether they know of the company that does serve the area.

Finally, you can try calling up your county’s Planning and Zone Department to see if they can direct you to the right electric company.

“Nearby” Utilities

If you’re still in the process of purchasing a piece of land and trying to find out more information, you may be told that there are “nearby utilities” (even if not physically on the property). However, this is a relative term and you should exercise caution. “Nearby” does not tell you any information about where the nearest utility lines are located – they may be right across the street or several miles away.

That said, ALWAYS make sure that you know exactly where the utility access is before you buy a plot of land. Just knowing that utilities are “nearby” isn’t enough when it comes to purchasing property. You want to make sure that you have the full picture, as it can be very expensive and time-consuming to run power and other utilities to a new residence.

Note: It’s also important to be aware of whether power lines are on public property or private property. If the lines are located on private property, you may have to get permission from the owner of that property.

Cost Factors for Running Power Lines to New Residence

Once you know the electric company that you’re dealing with, how much it’s going to cost is really the main question that people have. However, the cost of running power lines to a new residence will vary based on a number of factors – with the main one being the specific electric companies’ policies. Here are some variables to keep in mind:

  • The distance from the location of the new residence to the nearest power pole. The greater the distance, the more trenching, wire, etc., and the higher the cost.
  • Whether or not a new transformer needs to be installed – this refers to the large can-like device on the pole that’s responsible for converting the voltage from a higher transmission to the 240 volts that will feed your new home.
  • Whether the power will be run to your house underground or overhead.
  • The number of poles that need to be set, how much wire must be run, and/or how long of a trench that the company will have to dig.
  • How much vegetation will need to be cleared.

Cost of Running Power Lines to New Residence

If power lines are running along the road in front of your lot, putting in a pole or two is something that these electric companies do on a daily basis. However, if the building site is quite a long way from the road (perhaps it’s a mile into the wood, for instance), the cost of running power lines to the residence will be much higher.

Depending on the land’s location and proximity to utility connections, costs can be anywhere from free, to a couple of hundred dollars, to possibly several thousands of dollars. In most cases, the electrical company may provide a certain amount (distance) of wire and trenching for free and then you’ll pay for any additional amount outside of that. Though, this varies from company to company.

For example, the company might give you free service lines from the road to a building site 100 feet away. However, moving beyond this distance will require more wire and more poles, making the cost approximately $25 to $50 per foot. In this case, a hypothetical one-mile setback from the road would cost you between $125,000 and $250,000 to run power. Some utility companies may offer to let you finance a portion of this cost at an APR of about 10 percent.

How Does the Process Work?

Aside from costs, there is much more to getting electric service installed at a new residence. The further that your property is located in the country and the more complicated the electric company’s bureaucracy is, the more logistical issues that can arise. With that said, here’s a snapshot of what the process looks like to have power lines run to a vacant lot:

  • The company will send out an engineer to assess your property and determine how they’re going to run the power lines. Then, the engineer will specify the path that the lines are going to take, including any requirements the company has for tree clearance and the like.
  • The engineer will tell you which trees and other vegetation will need to be cleared out of the way for the installation.
  • You will institute a “contract for service,” which is essentially your promise to the electric company that you are purchasing power.
  • In most cases, the electric company will require that you put in the house’s foundation and slab before they’ll do any work to run power lines to the site.

While that final step may seem unreasonable, it’s not uncommon for people to claim to build on a site and buy electricity every month, only to change their mind and not build or ever buy any electricity. At this point, the electric company has already spent a significant amount of money (that they will lose out on) to string new wires.

Temporary Power Options

If you decided to build your own home, whether it’s by hiring contractors or to do it yourself, you’re going to need power in order to make the home livable. To get started in the beginning, you basically have two main options: temporary power from a local utility pole or temporary power via a portable generator. Let’s explore both to understand what it takes to set each one up:

Utility Power

Before you can get a Certificate of Occupancy, your new residence is going to need electric service – so obtaining temporary power from the utility isn’t a significant additional cost. Whether the service is permanent or temporary, the electric company will likely need to put in a new pole and transformer.

For temporary service, the power will come from a couple of receptacles that are attached to the pole, located a few feet off the ground. These are operated by a cable that goes down the pole, through a meter and in the weather-resistant circuit breaker boxes. In most cases, these will be a couple of duplex 120-volt receptacles, though, if you need more you would negotiate the installation with your electric company.

Then, the power for your construction tools will be brought to your building site via extensions cords. There are a number of advantages to setting up temporary utility power, including the fact that you’ll never have to worry about a generator malfunctioning or being so loud it drives you insane. Not to mention, you won’t have to be consistently checking if you have enough gas to get your work done.

Portable Power

If utility lines are too expensive or too difficult to set up on your property, portable generators are an excellent solution. Even if you do connect your new home to the grid eventually, it’s beneficial to have a generator when inclement weather knocks out your power. Starting out with a portable generator is still a great investment. Even if you finish up with getting power via utility, you’ll find plenty of ways to put that portable generator to good use.

When you purchase a generator, you are purchasing watts (amps X volts). Generally speaking, the more wants that you purchase, the higher the price is going to be. Before you head out and buy a portable generator, it’s important that you determine how many watts you’re going to need. To help put things in perspective, the table below outlines the approximate wattage ratings for common power tools and household items you may find yourself using during the construction process:

Electricity-Powered ItemRecommended Wattage Rating
Television250 to 350 watts
Portable Drill200 to 450 watts
Coffee Maker600 to 900 watts
Circular Saw1,000 to 1,300 watts
Refrigerator400 to 600 watts

With this in mind, it’s important to consider that what you’re going to need for a temporary camp is different than what is going to provide real convenience at when the power goes out at home. When purchasing a generator, you should also factor in your tolerance for noise, as high-capacity generators are notoriously very loud – between 80 and 90 decibels (comparable to a chainsaw). In most cases, generators will remain at this noise level whenever they’re in use.

Thankfully, there are less-noisy alternatives known as inverter generators. Although, these tend to cost a bit more – approximately $800 for a 3,600 watt inverter generator, compared to $400 for a traditional 3,600 watt generator. This means that you’ll pay about double for an inverter generator than you would for a traditional model. However, they come with benefit of being much quieter, sitting in the range of normal human conversation (or 50 dBA). The reduction in noise is possible because the generators have more efficient engines, an advanced controls system, and better cabinet sound-proofing.

Other Utilities to Set Up

When you’re building a new home on a parcel of land, power isn’t the only utility that you’re going to need to make it functional. While you may not need them in the beginning, eventually you will want water, septic system or connection to a municipal sewer main, and possibly internet, television, and cell phone service.


Most homes in the United States are serviced by a municipal system. In fact, this is arguably the cheapest and easiest way to get water. However, even if your property does have access to municipal water, setting it up isn’t as easy as calling the county and asking them to connect you. It will take a lot of time and effort to get water to your property, as you’ll be required to install a hookup to the water main.

When you consider all of the permits, requirements, and procedures involved, it could cost you a couple hundred dollars to over $5,000 before you have water at your new residence. On the other hand, if you are purchasing a property that is outside of the area serviced by the municipal water system, you’ll probably have to drill your own well. Well installation is notoriously expensive – costing anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 depending on how deep it needs to be dug.

Sewer or Septic

Depending on the location of your property, you’ll either need to hook up to a municipal sewer main or have a septic system installed. Just like public water, when you connect your property to a municipal sewer main, you’ll be required to pay for the connection. It can cost from $500 to $20,000 to hookup to your city sewer. Whereas, the installation of a new main sewer line costs an average of $3,149.

If your property is not served by a public sewer system, the alternative is to have a septic system installed. In most cases, the costs of operating an independent septic system are lower than the monthly fee for a sewer connection. However, the cost of installing a septic system varies considerably.

A basic, simple septic tank system could cost you a s little as $3,000, while a more advanced system may cost you as much as $20,000. The exact septic system your property needs will depend on the results of a perc test and your local regulations. Ultimately, the decision is a combination of what works best for your property and what you, as the homeowner, prefer.

Additional Services

Nowadays, things like internet, television, and cell phone service are necessary, even in the most rural locations. Regardless of where you live, you’ll likely be able to find a company that services your area. Oftentimes, you may find one that bundles all three of these services together.

In this instance, your best course of action may be to find out what other homeowners in your area are using. That way, you can ensure that the service you get is reliable, accessible to your area, and reasonably priced.

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Additional Electricity Considerations

Similar to how municipal water may not always be the most convenient option, the same is the case for connecting to the local power company’s grid. While it may be the easiest option, it isn’t always the best or the least expensive. When you’re examining your property, you might discover that alternative power, such as wind and solar, are better options.

Or, if you live in an area that is prone to blackouts you may need to look into getting a back-up system. Just because there’s an available local power company doesn’t always mean that they’re the best option for your property. Do the necessary research before purchasing the land to ensure that you know what is best for bringing utilities to it.

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Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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