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Fri, Aug. 23

Ask the contractor: Don't let lightning zap your pricy electronics

Our long-awaited monsoon season brings us precious water - but that comes with headaches over roof leaks, window leaks, power surges, and the dreaded influx of weeds sprouting up overnight in yards, driveway cracks and expansion joints.

The majority of YCCA's phone calls and emails this week pertained to lightning and power surges. A couple of homeowners had their panel boxes hit by a lightning surge, a computer system was damaged, and there were several calls about power going off.

Lightning is an unbalanced electric charge that has too many variables to predict. Lightning can hit ground a mile away from your home, take the path of least resistance, and send the damaging current to your home.

Q: We have always used power strips and surge protector strips for our computer system. This monsoon system has produced a lot of lightning, and we have had more flickering and power spikes than before.

Would it be beneficial to install a whole-house surge suppression system?

-Richard, Prescott

A: The short answer is yes. Power surges or transient voltage are terms that describe increased voltage to your home. Increased voltage is anything that goes over 120 volts. According to Arizona Public Service, our area has surges and spikes, both caused with and without lightning. A surge is when the increase lasts for three nanoseconds. A spike occurs when the increase lasts for two nanoseconds. With the large amount of lightning that we have during monsoon season, the typical store-bought surge protector cannot stop all voltage from entering the home. A whole-house surge suppression system is installed at the main electrical box and covers all home outlets, appliances, TVs phone systems, computers, and home wiring.

Almost everything today is made with some sort of electronic gadget, making them vulnerable to a surge. I decided that I did not want any worry about lightning power surges and hated the thought of having to run through the home unplugging precious equipment every time it rained. It was bad enough coming home after work and finding the power decided to surge or spike on a beautiful summer day and every clock was off and blinking frantically. So I opted for a whole-house surge suppression system and there are no more worries, no more clock settings, and I have protected my investments with a very affordable option.

Q: Are all homes grounded?-Matt, Prescott

A: All homes built after the 1960s are grounded. Homes prior to that time period had a two-wire circuit system in which the entire home was not grounded. Homes built after the '60s are three-wired, meaning there is a hot line, a neutral line which takes the power to earth, and the ground wire. The current wiring standards call for the house circuitry to be completely grounded, including water and gas lines. The ground wire goes into the panel box and can be a braided wire or a solid wire.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to or through www.

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