Avoid damage from lightning this season
Hi! Good morning and welcome to the YCCA "Ask the Contractor" column. YCCA started sharing its column with The Daily Courier and dCourier.com readers in September 2009 and most recently we began sharing our column in the Verde Independent. It is a pleasure to answer your questions and share information with you.
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With our monsoon season upon us and the increase of lightning, surge protection has become a much more complex and important issue because the value of electronic equipment in a typical home has increased enormously. Equipment is also more vulnerable to surges produced by lightning, because it is networked with other equipment throughout the inside and outside of our homes. More and more homeowners are becoming aware of the need to protect their homes from lightning strikes.
How do we do that? Lightning strikes have a tremendous amount of power. A single bolt of lightning can exceed 300,000 amperes, over one gigavolt (one billion volts) and with temperatures as high as 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit or about three times as hot as the surface of the sun, they can be deadly and damage a home in a matter of seconds. Lightning can rip through roofs, cause structural damage, ignite fires, and cause chaos with electronic equipment. Yearly, the number of homes struck by lightning increases and residential lightning losses exceed billions of dollars annually, representing 5 to 8 percent of all residential insurance claims.
There are four ways in which a lightning strike can damage residential equipment. The most common damage mode comes from a lightning strike to the network power, phone and cable TV or commonly known as CATV wiring. This network, especially if it is elevated, is a main collector of lightning surges. These surges are then transferred directly into the home and then to all of your connected equipment.
The next most common mode of lightning damage is when strikes travel through the ground and connect to your underground cables and pipes and to external wiring such as air conditioners, exterior lights, gate control systems, electronic dog fences, security systems - all of which can be struck by lightning and then carried into the home.
The third most common lightning strike damage is when lightning strikes nearby objects such as trees, flagpoles, and signs that are close to, but not directly connected to the house. When this type of strike occurs, the lightning radiates a strong electromagnetic field, which can be picked up by wiring in the house that can damage equipment.
The last mode of damage is a direct lightning strike to the house. This type of strike is rare.
The National Electric Code requires certain grounding, bonding and protection features, which are intended to protect against lightning. These safeguards greatly reduce personal injury; however, they are somewhat inadequate to prevent damage to electrical and electronic equipment.
In order to allow for enhanced protection against lightning, there are options such as installing Lightning Protection Systems, surge protectors on the AC power wiring, additional surge protections on signal wiring, and point-of-use protection at the equipment being used.
The Lightning Protection System is useful only in the extremely rare direct strike scenario. The AC and signal surge protection systems collect the major part of the lightning surge and then directs this surge harmlessly into the building ground. These protection systems greatly reduce the burden on the point-of-use protectors at the equipment.
It is important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of this protection system depends on the integrity of the building wiring. A good surge protection system installation should include testing of all receptacles to be used. Most new homes are built with power, phone and CATV entry points close to one another and this is very desirable and makes it easy to mount the AC protectors and signal protectors close to the main building.
Whole House Protection, sometimes called Complete Home Surge systems, are becoming more popular. A lightning protection system properly installed can protect and prevent potential lightning damage up to 99 percent. If you have any doubt or concerns that your home is properly protected and/or to verify if there is any sort of LPD in your home, an YCCA member electrician will be happy to assist you with the effectiveness of your current system. So make sure your home is in a bubble of protection.
You can now listen to YCCA on our new radio program "HAMMER TIME" airing every Saturday and Sunday morning on KQNA 1130AM or steaming online at www.kqna.info.
To help prevent you from becoming a victim YCCA encourages anyone thinking of hiring a contractor to check with YCCA to verify that the person or company that you are hiring is licensed to do contract work in Arizona and is in current license standing with the ROC.
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 928-778-0040. Submit questions to YCCA@cableone.net or through www.yccca.org.