How Lightning Affects Your Home
It’s no surprise to anyone that lives in Texas that thunderstorms are common between late spring and summer although they can pop up at any time of year. Texas thunderstorms come with rain, thunder and a high number of lightning strikes, sometimes turning more severe and producing hail and tornadoes. Let’s focus on lightning and how it affects your home - specifically the electrical system of your home.
While we don’t offer lightning rod installation, some companies specialize in this area. Most people are probably familiar with the general idea of a lightning rod, a large metal post staked to the roof, so I’ll leave the details up to a lightning rod installation company. The rods should be connected to a ground wire which goes directly to a ground rod (or two) to give the power a path of least resistance away from your home. When power has reached the earth or slab, it dissipates.
Whether the surges happen due to lightning, the power company sends a surge through the line on accident, or a surge occurs within the home a surge protector is a great product to install. Surges most commonly happen within the home, have you ever noticed that when the AC kicks on the lights dim down for just a second? That’s a surge flowing through your home, it also affects your outlets and appliances, but the light fixtures give us the most visual feedback. Over time these small surges can shorten the life of your appliances and electronics. Of course, over many years we may not notice that an appliance lasted 10 years when it should have lasted 12 or 15.
There are two types of surge protectors, the most common is the one that computers, printers, and other office equipment usually get plugged into. This type of surge protector is excellent at helping stop surges from affecting the items plugged into the strip. However, this type of protection doesn’t protect appliances like the washer and dryer, which could also be affected by surges.
What Happens When Lightning Strikes Nearby
Since lightning takes the path of least resistance, a nearby strike on your property or in your neighborhood could cause surge issues in your home. Surge issues tend to be pretty similar whether a nearby lightning strike has affected your home or it was directly struck by lightning.
Most of the time, when a powerful surge comes through you’ll find that certain appliances or items that were plugged in at the time of the surge no longer turn on or work the way they should. Surges affect appliances, outlets, and light fixtures but they typically don’t affect wiring. The home’s electrical wiring is just a path for the power to travel.
Lightning Protection For The Gas Line
Here’s what National Electrical Code 250.106 says about lighting protection: The lightning protection system ground terminals shall be bonded to the building or structure grounding electrode system. Or in other words, the system that needs lighting protection, in this case, the gas line, should be connected to the homes main ground system, usually found at the main breaker panel. Lightning protection for your gas system is required when corrugated stainless steel tubing, or CSST, is present in the piping system. If you only have conventional black pipe with threaded fittings, lightning protection is not required on your gas system. The 2009 edition of NFPA 54, National Fuel Gas Code includes new requirements for lightning protection. According to 7.13.2 CSST gas piping systems shall be bonded to the electrical service grounding electrode system at the point where the gas service enters the building. The bonding jumper shall not be smaller than 6 AWG copper wire or equivalent. Again, this is only required when CSST is present. Sometimes this is an easy fix, and other times it’s a bear to get from the ground at the main panel all the way to the gas line. Every situation is a little different, and we should talk about it one on one.
With the surge protector strip, you could pick one of these up for about $10-50 and plug them in as soon as you get it. A whole home surge protector has specific requirements for installation that need to be completed by a licensed electrician. Space in the main breaker panel is required for the new breaker to power the surge protector. A proper ground is also necessary to give the power a path of least resistance to travel away from the house to a rod either installed in the slab of the home or in the ground where the power can then dissipate. A whole home surge protector is going to cost more than a few of the plug strips, but it will cover everything in the home. You can’t use a strip on your AC, dryer, or oven. The whole home surge system will protect these items as well.
Things You Should Know About Your Home When Lightning Strikes
While thunderstorms and lightning are inevitable, there are some things you can do to keep your home and family safer and informed. If you're not sure whether you might have CSST or a whole home surge protector, shoot us an email or give us a call and we'll happily talk through the things you should look for.
The other type of surge protection is a whole home surge protector. This type of surge protector is installed at the main breaker panel to help stop surges that come in from a lightning strike in the neighborhood, a surge from the power company or the small surges that happen around the home as well. While this type of surge protector does cover the whole home, it’s not fail-proof. If lightning were to strike the home directly or strike close by the power of the lightning might be too much for the surge protector, however, in any case having something help send power away from the house is better than not having any protection in place.
What Happens When Lightning Strikes The Home
If your home has been directly hit by lightning, first call the fire department to have them check everything out. Lightning could strike anywhere on the home, which could lead to fire but will most likely cause surge damage. Since the home is all connected electrically, you may see some melted outlets, the tv no longer turns on, and while the oven works fine, the clock no longer works. Generally, the damage is pretty contained to those items. If an outlet has melted the outlet needs to be replaced, but there aren't many concerns for the wiring in the home. In a few cases, the heat from the outlet will affect the coating on wires coming into the outlet, when that happens the wires need to be cut back to an unaffected area typically it’s just an inch or two.
If enough damage has happened, you might talk to your home insurance company who will request documentation from an electrician stating that all of the damage was from a lightning strike. It’s impossible to be 100% sure unless there are lightning scorch marks on the item that was damaged, a lightning strike nearby or a power surge from the utility company could cause the same damage to appliances.
Occasionally, you can see exactly where the lightning entered the home and struck wiring inside the home like this picture below that a customer sent in.
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