financial shocks with lightning protection gear|
lightning protection is installed in your home, it ties into one of the existing
grounding systems. "We physically bond it into the grounded systems in your
home so that it hits the lightning rod and stays on that least restrictive path,"
The lightning-protection system doesn't use your home's
existing wires as its pathway. Instead, a series of rods connects
to special cabling that encases your home and leads to a grounded
terminus. In essence, you place your house in a conductive enclosure.
The technical term is Faraday's Cage, named after the physicist
whose application revealed that a charge on a surrounding conductor
stayed on the outside, not affecting anything enclosed within.
"Institutes test this stuff," Schoenthal
says. "It's not just some old wives tale. We're not like those
Old West traveling shows selling some elixir."
Still the idea of a lightning cage, he acknowledges,
does cause some consternation for us nonscientific types. He says
it's not unusual for customers, upon seeing the design, to exclaim,
"Oh my god, I've got all these wires running all over the house
that are just going to pull lightning down on me! You tied onto
my gas line and you're going to make lightning hit and blow it up!"
reality, though, without a specifically grounded dispersal route, a bolt could
jump from one existing path in your home (such as your phone line) to another
(your electrical wires). And that usually causes more damage, says Schoenthal.
you can get beyond any cosmetic issues and grasp the underlying science, then
you have to overcome one other hurdle: the cost of a comprehensive exterior system.
Schoenthal is hesitant to offer a specific dollar
amount. "It's hard to budget this because you need to see the
roof lines; every house has different roof lines and chimney lines.
But a basic budget type number, a broad ballpark figure, is 1 percent
to 2 percent of the value of the home."
What about trying to save some money and putting in
a partial system? As Roux notes, homeowners aren't forced to install
lightning mitigation systems, so the degree of protection is left
up to the individual. Schoenthal, however, doesn't recommend a minimalist
"In order to protect
the structure properly, it's all or nothing," he says. "If you put one
lightning rod on the chimney, you have just protected that chimney and that's
And both men say that an external system is just
half the job.
Bringing protection indoors
"The other portion that gets real involved is transient voltage
surge protection," says Schoenthal. "A lot of homes have
home entertainment systems, and the surge protection is a viable
thing, because even with a lightning rod system, lightning can hit
a power line or the ground and still tear up everything electrical
in your house."
The bolt doesn't even have to hit near
your house to do damage. The energy of a strike is dissipated by arcing, imposing
itself on any nearby wires and traveling through them for miles, says Roux. Whatever
is attached to those wires all along the way is a target. "If you have a
building and it has wires coming into it, it is susceptible."