Keep safe and reduce lightning damage at home
Last updated: January 1
Some people are fascinated by lightning. But it’s important to remember that those incredible flashes of light can also present a serious threat to you and your home, with the potential to create power surges, start fires and even injure you, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Here are some important measures you can take to help prevent lightning from damaging your home or injuring you.
Know your surge protectors
Lightning doesn't have to strike your home directly to be a threat. A nearby strike can travel through electricity, cable or telephone lines to create a power surge inside your home that can damage or destroy your electronics and appliances, says the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
To guard against that, a lot of homeowners have plug-in surge protectors to help protect their expensive electronics. But they may not be as protected as they think. That's because many people mistake a power strip for a surge protector, says This Old House. So, it's important that you know the difference between the two.
Whereas a power strip is solely designed for convenience — a way to power multiple electronic devices by a single outlet — a surge protector has a second function: to protect those sensitive devices from a sudden electrical spike, says This Old House. According to BobVila.com, you can tell the difference between a surge protector and power strip based on the label on the housing unit.
Buy a surge protector with an indicator light that lets you know it's functioning properly, This Old House advises, and look for a joule rating of 1,000 or more (a joule is just a unit of energy, so the rating tells you how much energy a surge protector can defend against. The higher the number the better your protection.).
Another option to help protect your home against sudden power spikes is a whole-house surge protector system installed at the breaker box. The idea is that, rather than have multiple plug-in models installed in outlets all around the house, you can have a single device that helps protect all the electronics in your home.
Consider a lightning protection system
If you're concerned about the effects of a direct lightning strike, a lightning protection system may help reduce the potential damage, says the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). These whole-house systems use a network of rooftop lightning rods to intercept a direct strike and route the electricity through protection cables down into the earth, helping keep your home unharmed.
The systems are not a DIY option — they require professional installation, LPI says — with pricing generally running less than one percent of the value of your home.
Stay safe indoors
The best place to ride out a storm is inside your home, says the III. But there are still some risks when you're inside. Here are some measures the III suggests you take to help avoid injury from lightning-induced electricity that may channel through the power lines leading into your home:
- Stand clear of windows and doorways.
- Avoid the phone (corded phones and devices plugged into outlets are unsafe, but cordless phones, smartphones and devices that aren't plugged in are OK, says Ready.gov).
- Don't use small appliances like hairdryers or toasters.
- Stay away from plumbing, including sinks and tubs.
Lightning storms can be dangerous, and even unpredictable. But these important steps may help protect your property and help you stay safe during these seasonal threats.