Lightning Rod for Your Home -
383 views | July 19, 2021

Lightning Rod for Your Home

A detailed guide about lightning rods and how they function.

Every region of the U.S. has varied weather conditions. Some areas are rainy most of the year, while some remain hot and dry. It may be time to install a home lightning rod for those living in areas of frequent thunderstorms. However, before installing, you should have a clear idea of how it works.

Here is a detailed guide about lightning rods and how they function. These are the topics covered:

What is a Lightning Rod?

The most frequently asked questions are what is a lightning rod and what do lightning rods do? A lightning rod is an electrical conductor mounted on a home to protect it from lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. The rod’s design allows it to catch a direct lightning strike and provide an avenue for the electrical energy to travel before grounding the charge. 1

How Does it Work?

A lightning rod has a simple mechanism that is often misunderstood. Many think that a lightning rod attracts lightning. This is not true – lightning strikes have vast amounts of dangerous electricity that can be disastrous for anything that does not conduct electricity. A lightning rod reduces the damage by conducting the electrical current to the ground. A lightning rod offers a low resistance path for the current to flow. Therefore, it redirects the current from striking a home, where it could cause damage, to a safer area like the ground.

Another phenomenon associated with lightning is that it can “jump around,” which makes it quite dangerous. When it jumps around near a lightning rod, the low resistant system receives the jump and grounds it before it can cause damage.

A misconception regarding a lightning rod is that it prevents lightning from striking. Instead, a lightning rod increases the chances of lightning striking a safer spot and protecting your house. So, a lightning rod functions during the lightning strike or after it has hit, but it cannot prevent lightning from striking.

If the place you are protecting is out in an open field, you should ensure that the lightning rod is significantly taller than the building; otherwise, the electric field may dissipate. But, again, the idea is only to create a low resistance path for the current.

Possible Effects of a Lightning Strike

The effects of a lightning strike can be extremely devastating. A lightning strike can set surrounding objects on fire with its sizeable electrostatic energy (between 100 million to 1 billion volts and billions of watts).2 When lightning strikes material that does not conduct electricity, it heats up quickly, and this heat eventually results in high localized pressure and subsequent explosion.

The indirect effects of lightning strikes include excessive electricity running through conductors, including electrical appliances; this is called a power surge. Several other factors can also cause a power surge, such as faulty wiring or a power outage. However, a lightning strike can be detrimental and cause temporary or permanent damage to your appliances.

Why Should I Install a Lightning Rod?

The most important benefit of a lightning rod is saving lives. Lightning can cause immediate death or painful and permanent physical damage to the body. Annual worldwide estimates for lightning fatalities is 24,000, and 10 times as many injuries.3 A lightning rod minimizes the chances of someone being struck by lightning.

A lightning rod prevents electrical spikes from harming appliances by directing the voltage to a safer place. Unfortunately, damaged electrical appliances and devices cause financial stress and everyday hardships.

A lightning rod or lightning protection system (LPS) ranges anywhere from $50 to $2,500. However, in the long run, it can prove helpful. For example, a lightning rod can prevent a house from catching fire or avoid bodily injury due to a lightning strike.

What are Surge Protectors?

As explained, lightning strikes can cause power surges in the home. Surges can lead to damaged or destroyed devices and appliances. Besides the cost of expensive appliances, like refrigerators or computers, they also play a significant role in everyday life.

Surge protectors are categorized as primary or secondary. Primary protectors are installed at the main electrical panel and protect the entire home, while secondary protectors resemble power strips. Secondary types of surge protection allow for multiple appliances and devices to be protected from one strip. In addition, both types of surge protectors are affordable options.

Since regular power strips aren’t designed for surge protection, it’s crucial to install transient voltage surge protectors. These devices can protect expensive electronics like computers, televisions, gaming systems, and appliances. However, surge protection plans cover this type of damage if in-home surge protectors are out of the question.

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Final Thoughts

Lightning is a common weather occurrence. However, lightning striking residential homes is an uncommon occurrence to which many homeowners give little thought. In the event that lightning strikes a home, a lightning rod can provide a safe path for the lightning’s current to run into the ground. But lightning rods can’t reduce the chance or stop a home from being struck by lightning. So, whether you choose to install a lightning rod for safety or peace of mind, it’s important to understand the devices’ effectiveness. It’s also worth noting that some homeowner’s insurance policies give credit for lightning protection, but check with yours before the purchase and installation of a lightning rod.

FAQs

Does a lightning rod work by repelling current?

No, lightning rods do not repel current. Instead, they create a safer pathway for the current to travel, so lightning doesn’t damage your home. They are excellent conductors with low resistance.

Are lightning rods grounded?

Yes, they work on the physics principle of grounding. Its design is how it diverts the current from damaging your home and electrical appliances.

Can trees increase the chances of lightning strikes at my home?

Yes, trees increase the chance of lightning strikes at your home. It is best to perform regular maintenance on trees with limbs hanging over the house.

Should I install a lightning rod for my home?

Yes, if you live in an area with frequent thunderstorms, you should consider installing a lightning rod on top of the house. It is essential for the safety of your home and loved ones.

Can I install a lightning rod myself?

No, it is a technical task and can be a fire hazard if installed incorrectly. It is better to let a professional handle the lightning rod installation.


1National Weather Service. Lightning Rods. Retrieved from https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-rods
2The National Severe Storms Laboratory. Severe Weather 101 – Lightning. https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/lightning/faq/
3National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Lightning Injuries. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441920/

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