Lightning Safety – Protecting Smart Homes from Lightning Strikes
What better time than National Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 18 – 24, 2017) to highlight some key statistics about lightning and how to protect homes, especially those with complex technology, against lightning’s harmful effects.
• Lightning strikes 25 million times per year in the U.S.1
• The temperature of lightning is hotter than the sun!2
• Lightning causes approximately 22,600 fires resulting in $451,000 million in property damage per year – of those 19% were residential fires3
Lightning damage can potentially be prevented through the installation of a comprehensive lightning protection system and may qualify for a homeowner insurance discount. All homes can benefit from a complete lightning protection system. However, the top ten states with the highest density of strikes per square mile are Kentucky, Kansas, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana, with the lightning capital of Florida taking a clear lead.4
Today’s smart home features can include complex energy collection systems (such as solar panel arrays, geothermal heating and cooling), whole home automation systems (controlling audio and visual, climate control, and security systems), high-end appliances and electronics devices. All electrical components are highly sensitive to power surges from lightning. This is a compelling reason to consider installing a complete lightning protection system to mitigate costly lightning damage.
Lightning Protection Systems
A lightning protection system does not attract or prevent lightning strikes. It is an exterior mounted system designed to direct a lightning strike through a specified path along the exterior of the building guiding it safely into the ground to dissipate, leaving the structure and occupants unharmed. System components consist of:5
- Strike termination network: Roof-mounted metal air terminals (rods)
- Down conductor network: Braided cables made of aluminum or copper that connect the air terminals to system components
- Bonding network: metal components that join the roof components to the down conductor network
- Grounding electrode network: ground rods, rings or plates that direct the current safely into the ground and away from the structure
- Surge Protection: installed at the electronic panel, this device “knocks down” electrical surges to a survivable level
A standalone whole house surge protection system can protect a home from power surges entering the home from exterior electrical sources; however, it will not completely protect a home from lightning damage. It is the combination of both the roof-mounted lightning protection system with the surge protection system that makes a comprehensive lightning protection system.
Smaller surge protection devices, which protect specific electronic devices in the home, can be purchased for $25 – $2,000.
Ready to install a comprehensive lightning protection system?
It is important to make sure your installer is a Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) Certified expert and experienced in lightning protection (this is definitely not a DIY project). An improperly installed system can result in devastating losses. Check Lightning.org for a certified installer.
A certified technician should periodically inspect the system to ensure that the cables and connections are properly attached, especially in high wind areas where bonds can be loosened, creating an opening that can allow for water intrusion.