Lightning Protection in a Flash

Is it just lightning rods connected to conductor going to ground? In short, yes, but there is a complete science to lightning protection.

Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod over 250 years ago and we still use his design today. The biggest difference between his time and now are the electronics and communication equipment we all now have in our homes. This is why surge protection is now important. The difference between structural lightning protection and surge protection follows.

Structural protection is the system briefly mentioned above including lightning rods, conductor, and grounding. Structural protection protects a building from a direct strike which could possibly cause a fire or may super heat steam inside masonry or other structural materials which could then explode.

Surge protection is used to protect the electrical and communication systems and electronic devices in your home, but will not assist in preventing a direct strike. Quality surge protection will not come from a power strip you purchase from a box store. Lightning will not discriminate between an air force base and a residential home. The same quality surge suppression should be installed at both locations. Redundancy is also important in surge protection and it is valuable to protect the main service panel and all sub panels. Every wire entering your home has the potential to carry a power surge, so cable and telephone lines should also be protected.

The lightning rod now has some variations. There are versions of the lightning rod that actively try to attach with lightning. A single active rod can take the place of numerous traditional lightning rods. Another version of the lightning rod dissipates the building ion charge and effectively keeps lightning from locating the structure they protect. This dissipating rod is extremely useful when protecting buildings or tanks containing flammable or explosive materials. It is important to remember that lighting rods need to have two different paths to ground.

The conductor provides an engineered path for lightning to follow to the ground rods. Lightning protection standards only recognize using a braided copper or aluminum conductor with a specified number of strands and a minimum weight per foot. Lightning is a high frequency electrical event and it travels on the skin of a conductor. This is why lightning professionals only use the bare braided wire known as Class 1 or Class 2 lightning conductor to effectively carry the lightning strike down to the ground rods.

Bonding is another component of the protection system. All lightning rods, any conductor used, and the ground rods need to all be electrically continuous. Electrical bonding connections are necessary to those components as well as to any nearby pipe, metal fencing, or other metal bodies. The entire protected site will then have common grounding and its potential will rise and fall evenly with little chance of electrical arcing when lightning strikes.

All this being said, by employing these techniques you can provide a very high level of protection for your property, but still lightning sometimes decides it will not be told what to do!