HOW DO I SET UP A HOME LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEM?
A home lightning protection system consists of several components. Good earth grounding through ground rods and water pipes is the most important. NOTE: Some text links below go to applicable products on Amazon or EBay.
Additional home lightning protection components are surge protectors on your main electrical panel, plug-in surge protectors around your home, lightning arrestors on top of your roof, and an intersystem bonding termination for other utilities.
Lightning damage may not come from a direct hit to your home, but could be from lightning hitting your cable TV or telephone line at the pole in the street. Therefore it is important that all utilities in your home be grounded to earth.
PROTECTING HOME UTILITIES FROM LIGHTNING
An easy way to connect all utilities to earth ground is by using an intersystem bonding termination. There are several different versions of this available, but they all work the same. The intersystem bonding termination gets connected to the grounding electrode conductor that goes to the ground rod.
Utility companies such as telephone and TV will connect their own grounding conductor for their equipment to be earth grounded. In the past the utility companies would use a wire clamp to connect to ground wherever they could.
With all things connected to earth ground, if lightning were to strike the outside cable TV wire, the lightning energy would be channeled directly to earth.
With a weak or non-existent earth ground connection, the lightning will find a way to earth, but that could be a path through your TV, computer, major appliance, even the metal ducts in your house. That is how things get damaged and fires start. Click here for photos of one example of a TV and Telephone bonding and grounding on an older house.
I got a call to check out why a garage door opener in a new house got hit by lightning. The outlet for the garage door had a functional ground connection. I looked in the basement at the twin electrical panels and the ground connections looked good there.
I checked the water pipe connection and saw that water was coming from a well. The pipe from the well to the house was plastic and converted to copper once inside. Lastly I looked for a ground rod and found it. The wire was on the ground clamp wrong and the clamp was loose.
I surmised that due to the poor existing ground connection at the ground rod, the lightning found a good ground path through the garage door rails down to the garage concrete floor, which is a good earth ground. In the process the garage door opener got in the way.
The Photo above depicts an Intersystem Bonding Termination which is required by the National Electrical Code. This simple terminal block makes it easy for telephone and cable TV installers to connect their grounding electrode conductor wire to a good earth ground connection.
It connects one large grounding electrode conductor and up to four smaller grounding conductors for cable TV, satellite dish, and telephone services. It is important to have this for lightning protection.
The Intersystem Bonding Termination is required as per article 250.94 in the National Electrical Code. You should also read NFPA 780 on lightning protection.
If you install lightning arrestors on your roof, they will need to be connected to one or more ground rods separately from the ground rods for your power system. However all ground rods still need to be bonded together.
Many years ago some dear friends moved out of state. I went to visit them and fell in love with their hot tub. On my next visit they told me about lightning killing their VCR. At the time I did not think much of it. The next time I visited they said that lightning disabled the hot tub. Now I was motivated to look into the problem.
The house was over a hundred years old and the plumbing and electrical were not all up to good standards. Looking around in the basement I searched for the grounding electrode connection. I found a piece of galvanized pipe in the basement wall with the grounding electrode conductor wrapped around it.
We purchased a ground rod and clamps and drove it 7′ 10″ horizontally through a small gap in the basement stone foundation. I made good tight connections and made sure all plumbing and utilities were bonded. They never had a problem with lightning again.
A whole house surge protector added to your lightning protection system will provide more protection against lightning and power surges. Some surge protectors can protect against additional electrical system threats such as solar flares and an electromagnetic pulse. Check out EMP Shield electromagnetic pulse and surge protectors (Warning, I am an affiliate).