Don T Be Shocked

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What is considered the most dangerous weather hazard of all and occurs just about every day in the U.S? The threat is so serious that every new home in North American is built with protection systems to minimize damage from a possible strike. If you guessed “lightning”, you were correct!

According to UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.), “lightning is the visible discharge of static electricity within a cloud, between clouds, or between the earth and a cloud”. Thunderstorms occur when warm and cold air masses meet.

When a lightning bolt strikes the ground, it emits an electrical current of about 100,000 amps. Compare this to your average home electrical panel that produces about 100 to 200 amps to run your home power needs. Once lightning strikes, it can produce incredible temperatures up to 50,000 degrees F. In fact, it’s the rapid heating and cooling of air around the lightning strike that produces the phenomenon known as a thunderclap. Not limited to thunderstorms, lightning can be caused by erupting volcanoes, hurricanes, forest fires, or nuclear explosions.

Lightning Protection Systems

It’s no wonder that all modern homes are built with some form of lightning protection system to help prevent damage from a possible lightning strike. The damage doesn’t just come from the actual strike site, but from the high voltage electrical currents produced by the lightning. These currents can flow to underground tree roots, metal railings or even copper or steel water pipes.

A protection system controls those electrical discharges by redirecting their flow into the ground, minimizing risk of damage to buildings or other structures. Here are some examples of different types of lightning protection systems and their various controls as outlined by Inspect-NY.com:

Air terminals or rods are attached to buildings to protect metal roofs or chimneys. They should be placed no more than 2′ from any outside corner and be pointed, constructed of solid aluminum 1/2″ diameter or greater. The rods should extend no less than 10″ above the building roof or part of the structure being protected. The base should also be constructed from aluminum.

Metal rods driven into the soil around a house or grounding rods should also be at least 1/2″ in diameter and 9′ long. Once pounded into the ground, only 12″ of the rod should remain above ground and 8′ below ground. Any of the clamps, screws or connectors need to be stainless steel or bronze, and cabling should be made from aluminum.

Water pipes should be affixed to the lightning protection system with a copper conductor and a lead-coated water pipe clamp.

Your Lightning Protection System Installer

The effectiveness of a lightning protection system installation is monitored by the Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), or other similar agencies such as the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), or the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you are having a system installed, ensure that your installer is certified by one of these agencies.

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