Professional Installation Key to Effective Lightning Protection
A single bolt of lightning can
carry over 30 million volts of electricity. A lightning strike to an
unprotected home can be disastrous. According to State Farm Insurance, the
company each year has about 307,000 lightning related claims nationwide
amounting to $332 million. For homeowners who don't want to play the odds and
take their chances, a lightning protection system makes good sense.
Unfortunately, homeowners and un-trained contractors, who attempt to install
their own systems, could be doing more harm than good.
"It's important to have an experienced professional install the lightning
protection system," says Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning
Protection Institute (LPI). "Improper installation can lead to serious
consequences and in severe cases may be worse than not having protection at
The LPI is a not-for-profit nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote
lightning safety, awareness and protection education. Scientists, engineers,
architects, installers and manufacturers are included in the organization's
Recent reports of two devastating lightning fires to south Florida homes
equipped with improperly-installed lightning protection systems reiterate the
importance of experience, industry affiliation and certification when hiring a
lightning protection contractor.
"I recently examined digital photos of a home fire in Altamonte Springs
where a do-it-yourself lightning protection system caused the homeowner a big
headache," says Guy Maxwell, president of the Lightning Safety Alliance (LSA),
a non-profit, national league of lightning protection professionals and
consumers dedicated to the promotion of lightning protection and safety. "The
lightning protection system on the Altamonte Springs home revealed a variety
of problems, like the absence of air terminals for the chimneys, improper
downleads and incorrect grounding -- in a nutshell the system did not comply
with installation safety standards," explains Maxwell.
"A situation such as the Altamonte Springs fire does not happen to a
structure equipped with a lightning protection system that meets national
safety standards for installation," says VanSickle. "Lightning protection is
a specialty discipline. We can't stress enough, how important expertise and
certification are in terms of proper system design."
A professionally installed lightning protection system which meets U.S.
Safety Standards (LPI, NFPA and UL) will prevent lightning damage by providing
a safe electrical path into the earth for lightning's destructive energy.
Only experienced and reputable UL-listed and LPI-certified lightning
protection contractors should install lightning protection systems.
"Specifying compliance with UL or NFPA standards is key to safe and
effective lightning system performance," says Karl Keip, lightning protection
service manager for Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL). "Lightning
protection systems that have received the UL Master Label Certificate indicate
that a system has been inspected for conformance with these national standards
for system installation."
The LSA is currently sponsoring lightning protection tests at the
University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and
Testing. The two-year test involves triggering natural lightning to strike a
full scale test home equipped with a lightning protection system that has been
installed in accordance with NFPA and UL standards.
"To date the test house has been struck four times," reports Mark Morgan,
Research Coordinator for the LSA. "In each instance the lightning protection
system performed as expected. The lightning has safely traveled through the
lightning protection system with no damage whatsoever to the structure or its
The Lightning Protection Institute offers a list of certified contractors
across the U.S. Visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org for more
information about lightning protection and the LPI certification program.
Lightning Protection Institute