Most people know to keep indoors during a thunderstorm, but there’s more to severe weather safety than seeking shelter — understanding the effects of lightning on your home can help you be better prepared.
A lightning strike carries up to 1 billion volts of electricity. That can be some serious shock to your home, with the following items being at risk:
- Electronics: If it’s plugged in, lightning can get it. Avoid using plugged-in electronics during or immediately after a thunderstorm—the extra electricity could shock you too.
- Plumbing: Lightning can travel along metal pipes, so remember not to touch exposed plumbing, take a shower or bath, or use the faucet during a thunderstorm.
- Metal Objects: Metal window or door frames, and other metal items in your home can conduct electricity when lightning strikes. Be sure to keep your distance during or soon after a thunderstorm.
- Trees: Lightning has been known to strike trees, but can also jump from a tree to your home.
You can protect your family and home with a home lightning protection system. This system is a set of components that work together to conduct the force of a lightning strike to the ground by creating a path of least resistance. Without this path, lightning uses any conductor inside your home — including phone lines, electric lines and gas or water pipes — to get to the ground, causing significant damage. While a lightning protection system can’t prevent your home from being struck, it can reduce the damage and injuries caused by lightning.
Typically, home lightning protection systems include the following components:
- Lightning Rods: Copper or aluminum rods designed to intercept the lightning strike, mounted to your roof at regular intervals.
- Main Conductors: Metal cables that connect the lightning rods to other parts of the system.
- Grounds: More than two rods driven at least 10 feet into the ground to direct the current away from the structure.
- Bonds: Connect lightning rods and grounds to the main conductor to prevent lightning from jumping between multiple objects.
- Surge Suppressors: Installed at the main electrical panel to prevent an increase in electrical currents from starting a fire.
At costs ranging from $150 to $3,300, depending on how many rods and cables are installed, lightning protection systems can be worth the investment. Consider buying one if:
- Your home has been struck by lightning. Lighting does strike the same place twice. According to the National Weather Service, the Empire State Building is struck by lightning an average of 100 times per year.
- Electrical storms are common in your area. If a bolt strikes a nearby power line, it can travel into your home through plumbing or electrical wiring.
- Your neighbors have installed protection systems. Lightning can sometimes side-flash from one structure to another. If your neighbors are protected, you should be.
- You have trees taller than your home fewer than 10 feet away. The Lightning Protection Institute recommends installing protection systems on tall trees, as they do not offer protection from lightning strikes.
Remember, as a homeowner, seeking shelter inside your house is only one part of thunderstorm safety — taking the necessary safety measures outlined here can go a long way in ensuring the overall safety of your family and home.