(The following information is applicable to readers living outside North America.)
Did you know that lightning strikes the earth every second? Even though we’ve been rightly conditioned to worry about personal harm from a lightning strike, the odds are far greater that a strike will damage your home’s electrical components and your electronic devices. The electrical surges generated by lightning produce voltage spikes powerful enough to overload and damage TVs, computers, and any other appliance plugged into an electrical outlet. Lightning-related damage costs billions of euros, according to Meteorage.
How it happens
Damage occurs when a power surge delivers voltage that exceeds the device’s peak voltage. For example, in France, where residential voltage is 230 volts, appliances have a peak operating voltage of about 320 volts. A lightning strike can generate overvoltage many times higher than that.
Direct strikes are the most damaging, generating millions of volts able to disrupt your home’s electrical system, damage its physical structure, and even cause fires.
Even if you rarely see the familiar flash of lightning, you may still be at risk of an indirect strike. Lightning can hit more than 16 kilometers away from a storm. The electromagnetic pulse it produces can affect electrical components and electronic devices more than 2 kilometers away. The overvoltage generated is smaller than from a direct strike, but it’s still enough to melt the sensitive circuitry inside your home electronics.
Safeguard your electronics with Surge Protection Devices
If you live in an area prone to storms, you likely have a lightning rod on your home. Lightning rods, which divert current to the ground, only protect your home’s structure and the people inside from the harm of a direct strike. They can’t safeguard your devices from power surges.
To protect vulnerable appliances and electronic devices, you need a Surge Protection Device (SPD). There are a variety of SPD products but they all can be broken down into three types:
Type 1 — These SPDs are installed in your home’s main switchboard or at the electric meter and should be used with lightning rods and other lightning protection systems. They discharge the powerful currents of direct strikes.
Type 2 — These SPDs are also installed in your home’s electrical panel and should be used with or without a lightning rod. They protect against indirect lightning strikes and other overvoltages.
Type 3 — These are point-of-use devices that provide supplemental surge protection to specific electronics. A common example is the multi-outlet board you plug your PC and peripherals into. Type 3 SPDs should be used for TVs, computers, and other devices that are more than 10 meters from a Type 1 or 2 SPD.
The protection offered by an SPD is only as good as its installation. To ensure it’s done correctly and safely, consult with a licensed electrician. They can help you assess your risk of lightning strikes, determine the best SPDs for your home, and ensure they have the right surge current ratings to protect your electronic devices.
Visit our site to learn more about SPDs. The SPDs available to you may vary depending on where you live, so be sure to check your country’s website as well.