Thirty years ago I wrote an article or two on lightning and steps to protect your self and your house. At that time in history, not far removed it seems from Ben Franklin and his kite, i.e.: no computers, no digital, no i-Phones, just hard wired 60 year-old technology.
I think it is time to update for modern people and their modern lives. You have more invested in sensitive electronic devices and hard installed digital refrigerators, washing machines, TV, Radios, Phones, Air conditioners, well pumps, and the list goes on. Everything has a blinking light and sensitive to any and all surges of electrical power.
Your insurance company may for the first time cover your microwave or TV being surged by an electrical power spike of 50,000 volts, but shortly you may be dropped for their reasoning of nickel and dime claims that cost them more in accounting than it is worth. Considering upgrading your claim level to say a thousand dollars, bite the bullet for small things and you will retain the insurance as well as a discount. Speak to your agent on this.
Serious consideration needs to be considered about the changing weather patterns, which means more lightning strikes not only from usual seasonal temperature changes, but tornadoes and hurricanes. Let us look at the following scenario: there is a lightning strike 50 miles from your house. That magnetic induced electrical pulse may not all go into the ground. Some or all of that electrical energy can ride along your electric power lines outside your house and jump to your house-pole connection. This pulse or spike rides along the usual potential of240 volts, overtaking it at half the speed of light and can exceed thousands of volts potential as it leaps about from one unprotected wire and electrical devise in the house.
A worse case scenario is that you get a direct lightning strike of a million plus volts of energy striking your house and not only destroying the structure from the blast effect but causing the usual fire.
When we moved here we moved from the sea level to the clouds-our altitude of 2500 feet-which meant more wet, more air movements and more lightning. We have observed, once with great trepidation, “ball lightning” entering thru a window and drifting across the bedroom floor and then through the bathroom window. The basketball sized red glowing ball of fire was terrifying. We jumped in the bed and pulled up the covers.
Great thunderbolts crashed around the house! “We need lightning rods” -which was the level of our understanding at that time. Fortunately Sam Strickland, the “Lightning Rod Man” eased by in a couple weeks, or so, and we had rods put on the house, the barn and the milk house. The chicken house was later constructed and we put rods on that unit and also the solar greenhouse as time rolled along.
Lightning takes many forms besides the big thunderbolts. I have noticed flash lightning, which is like an instant of brighness, and I think this causes a lot of surge damage. However we have both seen lightning flash along the ground like a runner. Since we had put up rods our worries were forgotten, so much for non-digital technology that slowly took over and caused a new hazard.
That is the problem, once you do something, like installing the rods, you think you are safe but in time new related problems appear while you are living in a delusional state of preparedness.
We have all the amenities of digital age. We upgraded out 1940 service boxes to new, up to date wires and installed a digital surge protector on the new Generac generator outside. It to was “rodded” with four rods, maybe five, around it thanks to Pat Mullin, the Generac man.
The local telephone company upgraded the phone line service with a second rod and running a copper cable to the service box ground wire. This was now up to code.
Everything was rodded to the electrical grounds and lightning rods. We were safe.
Nahhhh! More surprises.
This week we were struck with the sneaky pulse of surge lightning that struck between the house and the garage-workshop and then on to the milk house and the big chicken house.
The well was the first indication and we traced the input electricity to a 50-foot or more open wire that we have to replace. We ran a temporary wire for water. The well fixtures all had surge protection, lightning arrestors, and was under the electric shielding, the “umbrella” of lightning rods. The pump was safe. Glory be!
Speaking of the well, we are going to install one of the newer hand pumps as a back up. These new eductor hand pump will go down the well 80’ feet or more. If we lose power, there is always the hand pump back up.
The surge took out some power packs in the garage, both the dryer and the microwave in the milk house, sans herb house. It blew a fuse in the chicken house. There is still some mystery voltage drops in the wiring but we are moving along.
Today I ordered from Amazon.com two whole house surge protectors, (a) Levitron 51120-1 and (b) the Levitron 51110whole house surge protectors. Currently at the time of this writing there is a 20% factory discount that I bought into as long as I bought before June 7th, 2014. I saved fifty bucks. Yea! Most people install these themselves-as I do. Follow direction, shut off main breaker or find a qualified electrician. Your insurance company may give you a discount.
A qualified master electrician who does work for me is: Dallas Haynes-phone # 304 –763-1011. I might add he drills wells, builds structures and all sorts of needed repairs and he will be involved in the hand pump for the well.
The point is that wiring can be overcome, as I have experienced, by surges of thousands of volts and burst into fire. Floyd and surrounding counties have high mineral concentrations, this of course contributes to more strikes.
One last technology is to insure that there is a lightning arrestor on each service box. This small epoxy white “can” with three wires is hooked into the service box across the main terminals and to ground. This may help.
The whole house surge protector may not protect your digital computer and such toys left plugged into the wall outlet. You also need to protect individual units with store bought high joules protector strips. Now you are protected-I think. Lightning direct or in surges is sneaky, dangerous and will “get you sooner or later” but if you keep abreast of new technology you may stay ahead of the curve.
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