May is Electrical Safety Month, and as electrical companies are working toward awareness of the obvious electrical dangers in your household, it is important that we discuss a lesser known form of electrical danger: lightning. One bolt of lightning can carry up to 300 million volts. To put that into perspective, household outlets in the U.S. only carry 120 volts. This level of charge can cause a major house fire and even blow brick off of the side of your house like the church in North Georgia just a couple of months ago.
Electrical Safety Hazards
There are a few key ways that lightning can be a danger to your house or office building. Since lightning is a high volume of electricity, it may be pretty easy to guess. You’ve probably heard a few from your electrician:
- A Direct Strike: A direct strike can attach to your household because it becomes the closest path to ground, and therefor the path of least resistance. That’s the path that lightning will take each and every time, the path of least resistance. Since your house sits high up off the ground, it becomes an easy target compared to the ground itself should a difference in potential occur near your home.
- An Arc: An arc can be a couple of different things, but it is never quite as severe as a direct strike. An arc is when a fraction of the energy in a lightning bolt parts ways with the main charge. It looks like branches when you see a bolt of lightning. This can happen naturally in the air or also if there is a difference in potential with an object nearby. For example, if lightning strikes a roof of a commercial building, it may also strike a couple of antennae on top of that roof because there is a difference in potential between the roof and the antennae.
- Surge: Surge is when lightning makes it into the ground, often by hitting a tree nearby your house, then traveling through the ground into your home through a service – gas, water, electric, etc. – and then causing damage to appliances, phones, tv’s, and other technology inside your home. This is especially common in Atlanta and the rest of the southeast because of the strike density here.
- CSST Gas Piping: CSST piping is a common form of piping being used today to supply your home with gas. The problem with it is that it isn’t durable and is especially susceptible to lightning damage. The last place you want an electrical charge, which has the ability to start fires, to be in contact with flammable gas.
How to Prevent Electrical Hazards Caused by Lightning
The best way to ensure electrical safety when it comes to lightning is to have a lightning protection system installed on your home that includes a surge protection system if there isn’t one on your home already.