Safeguarding your home from the million-plus volts of a lightning strike calls for a professional contractor. Not only does he or she have the expertise and special equipment necessary to install and test an energy shield system, but an improperly installed lightning protection system is likely to pose a greater hazard to your home than no protection at all.
But there are some things you can do yourself:
You see, lightning can damage your appliances, electrical devices, and electronics as the result of a powerful electrical surge traveling through the electrical system of your home on its way to reach a grounded location as quickly as possible. You can be injured or killed if lightning is attempting to travel through something while you are using it on its way to that ground. Since it can affect your phone lines and your metal plumbing, it is a good idea to stay off the phone or avoid taking a bath or a shower during a thunderstorm unless your home is fully protected.As a precautionary measure, unplugging your computer during a thunderstorm will protect it and your valuable data. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is useful only if the power goes out suddenly, and the short battery life of the UPS gives you time to save your work and shut down your computer properly, but only the most expensive ones are actual lightning surge arrestors.
As you know, analog TV is being phased out for high definition digital television. This means that many homes will still have the old TV antenna on the roof long after the analog signal has died, sort of like the Christmas lights around the eaves that haven’t been removed yet, either. Well, these antennas make great lightning rods to attract lightning to your home. And for those who never had an analog TV, or who have a newly constructed house, there are true lightning rods that can be purchased and placed on top of the roof to attract lightning to your home for protection. Yes, you read that correctly. They can attract lightning to your house to protect you, and that is exactly what you want, but only if you have everything set up properly.
Even if you have a tree that is taller than the house and is located within ten feet of the foundation, it should also be protected with special tree terminal lightning rods. Not only to protect the tree but to guard the house against side-flashes that might leap from the tree to the house if the tree is struck.
You see, if lightning does happen to strike, it will use the rods or the antenna as the fastest route to ground, and, if set up correctly, the current will completely bypass all of your electrical and plumbing systems. Such currents are diverted to ground by lightning arrestors or special lightning surge protectors that are installed at the main fuse box or circuit breaker panel and on the television antenna lead-in wire.
However, installing these lightning arresters on the live power lines is a job for an expert because it does require working on hot, live, wires from the utility lines in the street. But attaching a lightning arrester or high voltage surge protector to the TV antenna lead-in wire is a simple screwdriver job that you can do yourself.
It is important to buy the right products for the needs of your home. You may need to conduct some research to find out what your options are and how they specifically relate to your particular building. There are lightning arresters available that are designed for use with a 300-ohm flat antenna lead-in, and also for a 75-ohm coaxial cable lead-in. In either case, the lightning arrestor should carry the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal.
Remember, too, that the antenna mast or lightning rod itself should also be grounded. If it is not, then connect it to a grounded water pipe using the proper gauge wire. The clamps and wire for mast grounding as well as the antenna lead-in lightning arresters are often available at hardware stores, or electrical and electronic supply stores. If you opt to purchase a proper lightning rod, all grounding equipment should be included. It, too, should carry the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal.
Remember that these rods do not provide the total protection that a professionally installed lightning arrestor or energy shield system can because lightning surge damage can run into the house through overhead power lines, telephone cables, or cable TV wires when lightning strikes elsewhere in the area. But these simple do-it-yourself measures may prevent a burn out of expensive electrical equipment from a direct hit to your antenna or trees.
Although arrestors/surge protectors and antenna grounds are advisable everywhere, not every home needs a full-scale lightning protection system, especially in areas where thunderstorms are few or mild.
But if you do decide to have a complete protection system installed, insist that the installation conforms to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Make sure to inspect it yearly before the storm season by checking for bent, loose or missing air terminals and roads, as well as breaks or fraying in the conductors; and make sure that clamps and splices are tight and that no new construction near the house has damaged the buried rods and cable.
So, don’t wait for damage to occur from an electrical storm before you do anything about it. Take every precaution now because even this small investment in time and money will be less expensive than replacing all your damaged items from a strike, since most manufacturers warranties do not cover lightning damage, and few homeowners policies do either.
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