Lightning And Your Home

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Facts and Myths about lightning strikes and your home's electrical system

Lightning is a result of static electricity buildup between clouds. When the static buildup gets large enough, the electricity is dissipated to the ground via a lightning bolt (technically called a lightning stroke). Think of it as Mother Nature’s version of walking across a carpet and touching a doorknob! A typical lightning stroke can contain anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion volts of electricity and can be as hot as 50,000ºF. There are approximately 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the USA annually. New York, New Jersey, and eight other states report more deaths and injuries from lightning strikes than the rest of the country.

Despite any myths you may have heard, any object can be the target of a lightning strike. Lightning does not always strike the tallest object in an area, or a metal surface instead of a non-conductive one. Lightning also strikes the surface of water such as oceans and inland lakes. Nothing is immune to a lightning strike.


Many times we are asked if a surge suppressor installed in the home would protect electronic equipment used there (such as TV’s, microwaves, and computers) in the event of a lightning strike. The answer to this question depends on where the strike hits. If there is a lightning strike in the area, and it causes a surge on the power lines entering the home, then a surge suppressor would probably protect any electrical equipment attached to it. However, if the house experiences a direct lightning strike (or even one that might land in the yard and not hit the house directly) then chances are that there will be significant electrical damage in the home – perhaps even a fire – and a surge suppressor will not help in that instance.

Odds are that you would benefit from the installation of a whole-house surge suppressor. This device is installed in the main circuit breaker panel by a licensed electrician and can protect every piece of electronic equipment in the house – you’re not limited to the small amount of protection provided by a plug-in power strip type of surge suppressor. A whole-house surge suppressor is usually a better device than the plug-in ones that you can buy at your local hardware store. Also, many of them come with a connected equipment warranty which would pay for the replacement of any products damaged while the suppressor is in use (except of course for a direct lightning strike).

The best protection for your home in the event of a direct hit is a lightning rod system. Despite myths you may have heard, lightning rods do NOT attract lightning to your house. They simply provide a safe conductive path to ground for any lightning that may be in the immediate area. That way, if a lightning strike does occur, the energy from the strike is harmlessly diverted to the ground, instead of causing damage to your house.

Do UPS units and surge protectors, such as those used with my TV and computer ever wear out and need to be replaced?

Yes they do. The life span is usually based on how many surges they intercept and stop from reaching your equipment. When it gets one too many, it will stop providing surge protection.

A good way to look at surge protectors is to compare them with bullet proof glass. This glass can easily withstand the impact of one bullet and sometimes more. But as each subsequent bullet is deflected, the glass gets weaker. Eventually, the glass will completely shatter from the smallest impact.

The better surge protectors will give you some sort of indicator light to let you know if they are still protecting or not, but without this indicator, you may be experiencing a false sense of security with your suppressor device.


We had an electrician change a regular outlet to a dedicated circuit for our computer equipment. Occasionally, the computer’s battery backup unit will beep when nothing plugged into it is turned on. Question is can a dedicated line for an outlet experience problems such as this?

A dedicated line doesn't filter noise problems or voltage spikes and dips. It only assures a maximum current availability at the outlet.


Wurtsboro Electric Service, Inc.

Licensed electricians serving Orange county, Sullivan county, and Ulster county in New York
(845) 888-8000 

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