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Tips for Protecting Your Home from Lightning
Are you concerned about lightning damaging your home, your electronics or other property? If so, good for you. Lightning damage is more common than you might imagine and preparing your home to handle a strike can save the day. There are a variety of steps you can take for protection from low end and simple steps to professional lightning protection systems. Let’s take a look at some options:
Surge Protectors for Lightning Protection
The most common and easiest way to protect your electronics from lightning is by adding surge protectors to your home. A variety of options from, low-cost and single outlet protectors to all-encompassing household surge protectors are available:
Outlet surge protectors. This is the easiest and most affordable method to protect your electronics from a power surge. They can prevent fires, too. Each electronic device should have its own plug-in or a shared surge protector power strip. Some surge protectors are better than others, so look for the following features when making a purchase:
- An indicator light so you know it’s working.
- UL-certified, tested to UL 1449.
- Joule rating of 1,000. (The rating typically ranges from 200 to several thousand, with the better protection at the higher ratings.)
- Clamping voltage rating of 330v to 400v.
- Response time of less than 1 nanosecond.
Whole-house surge protector. A building or whole-house protector should be installed by a professional electrician or your utility company. It’s designed to prevent your home’s wiring, appliances and electronic devices from excess voltage and is built right into the home’s service panel. This solution is a bit more expensive and you’ll have to pay for professional installation, but it’s a great solution for people who don’t want to purchase a lot of small, outlet surge protectors.
Surge protector plus. Even if you have a surge protectors, unplugging your electronics when a storm is coming helps hedge your bets and prevents a power surge from reaching them.
Other Ways to Protect Your Home from Lightning
Surge protectors are a great start, but there are other ways you can protect yourself, your home and your property from lightning damage.
Stay off the house phone. Don’t use corded house phones during a storm — they’re great conductors of electricity. Cell phones are okay to use.
Avoid your plumbing. The metal in your plumbing is also a good conductor of electricity. While it might not be practical to put off using the bathroom until the storm is over, you can certainly postpone a bath or washing the dishes.
Check grounding. Have a licensed electrician review your home to make sure you have adequate grounding of the power line connection and your power distribution panel.
Lightning protection systems. In regions that are prone to lightning strikes, this is a good way to protect your home and prevent lightning fires. The system includes little “lightning rods” on your roof to channel the flow of electricity. Complete lightning protection systems can be expensive, but they offer a high level of protection for the entire home. Look for systems and installers that are certified by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or built up to Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) standards.
Lightning Protection Outside Your Home
There are a couple of great reasons to take your lightning protection efforts outside, too. The first is to protect your property outside. You don’t want to lose a tree, your shed, or your magnificent garden.
The second reason is to be protected from a side-flash. This is when a lightning strikes a tree or other outside object, and then jumps to more conductive materials, such as downspouts, flashing and other metal objects on your home. So, let’s look at how you can protect the outside of your home too.
Tree protection. If you have trees that are less than 10 feet from your home, or ones that are taller than your home, they are the ones you want to protect. This system uses copper conductors connected to a ground rod to reduce tree damage and conduct the charge into the earth, where it’s dispersed.
Watch the swing set. Before you create that backyard fun zone, make sure you install any outside structures more than 10 feet from your home. This also applies to sheds and out-buildings.
Lightning arrester. This is an added defense mechanism when lightning strikes a power or communication line. Lightning arrestors are attached to the lines, so you have to contact your local power or telecom company to see if they’re willing to install one in your area.
Remember, not all areas need the same level of protection from storms and lightning. Some regions have a lot of storms while others see relatively few. The level of protection you want for your home is up to you, but should be based on what you feel the risk level is.
One great way to protect your home is with homeowners insurance. Connect with your American Family Insurance agent to see how your homeowners or renters insurance will protect you if lightning strikes.