financial shocks with lightning protection gear|
Kay Bell Bankrate.com||
Throughout the ages, it's been portrayed as the manifestation of gods, recounted
in thousands of literary allusions and, perhaps most famously, inspired inventor
and icon Benjamin Franklin. Even Santa is connected to this natural phenomenon
thanks to reindeer Blitzen.
Beyond its romantic and legendary trappings, though,
lightning is a powerful, sometimes deadly and potentially costly
force. According to government data, lightning strikes trigger tens
of thousands of fires in the United States each year. These conflagrations
cause damages of almost $9,300 apiece, more than twice that of other
fires. And almost half of the annual lightning-ignited fires are
The scientific reality of lightning is that it's a
random act of nature. And even if it doesn't start a fire, a bolt
still can cause serious damage unless you take advantage of the
various lightning safeguards designed to protect your property,
possessions and pocketbook.
"All of the earth is a target for lightning," says Richard
Roux, an electrical engineer with the National
Fire Protection Association. "During a lightning storm,
there's competition for the lightning strike. Those things that
appear attractive to the bolt is where the bolt will go."
do seem to be more attractive to lightning. But there is no way to predict whether
the ground, a tree or a house will win (or, from the property owner's point of
view, lose) when a bolt finally makes its choice.
If you're particularly worried that your house might
be a target, you might want to investigate exterior-defense options.
The most common one is an elaboration on Franklin's centuries-old
lightning rod. But as the times have changed, so has the notion
of simply putting a metal receptor on your roof. Now they're called
strike-termination devices and the original pointed, or Franklin
tip, style is being phased out in favor of a blunt, rounded design
found to be more effective. (The pointed rods still work. The spherical
ones just work better.)
though, shy away from lightning rods. For a few, it's a cosmetic concern about
how the devices will look. That issue is assuaged somewhat by installation techniques
that hide necessary wiring along roof lines, downspouts and eaves and embellish
the finished product with decorative finials and weather vanes.
others, the concept itself is a concern. Won't that metal pole simply pull any
lightning straight down on my home? No, say experts. A lightning rod isn't a lightning
"Lightning seeks the least restrictive path to
the ground," says Eddie Schoenthal of the Austin, Texas, office
of Bonded Lightning
Protection. "What lightning protection does is give you
structural protection for your home. It doesn't attract, nor does
it retard, lightning.
lightning is going to hit your house, it's going to hit your house. We're giving
it the least restrictive path to the ground."
Ground, in its many definitions, is the operational word.
In any home, various systems are grounded as the house is built. This includes
electrical wiring, water pipes, telephone connections, natural gas lines and any
kind of television connection, either cable or satellite.