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How does Lightning Protection actually work?

Like insurance policies, you might not need a Lightning Protection System every day, but when you do, it’s there to protect you. That’s why SMKA Electric have brought together all the information you need to safeguard yourself against one of nature’s most unpredictable forces.

Why do I need a Lightning Protection System?

To describe lightning as a ‘discharge of static electricity’ can make it seem quite tame, like the shock you might receive from a metal handrail. In fact, lightning strikes can harbour up to a billion volts of electricity and reach temperatures that are five times hotter than the surface of the sun. That’s an incredible amount of energy.

Fortunately, we can use Lightning Protection Systems to substantially reduce the risk of damage to our properties, so much so that lightning damage is now widely considered a ‘preventable loss’ in risk assessments and risk management practice.

What is happening when lightning strikes my property?

Lightning Protection Systems are skilfully designed to intercept strikes and provide the electrical energy with a path of minimal resistance through the building, direct it into the ground where it can be safely dispersed. Lightning Protection Systems do not attract lightning (see our post on lightning myths).

Where there is no system to safely guide the electrical energy away from a building’s structure and contents, the enormous energy will force its way through non-conductive materials (such as brick, wood, plastic and glass). The resistance it encounters from these materials can result in substantial heat, often causing fires and powerful explosions.

Key components of the system

There’s more to Lightning Protection Systems than what we can see on our rooftops. Lightning ‘rods’ (known officially as Air Terminals or Strike Termination Devices) are connected to a Down conductor System, which may run through the structure of a building or be electrically isolated from the building. The Down conductor System is then connected to buried terminals called Ground Electrodes, which run deep into the ground and may also encircle the building.

When lightning strikes your property, it is intercepted by the Air Terminal and safely diverted through the Bonding System to the Ground Electrodes. It is here that the normally destructive energy is safely dissipated into the ground.

Is surge voltage protection mandatory?

IEC standards provide information

Surge voltage protection measures are becoming increasingly important because of the rising number of incidents of damage. However, many customers do not recognise the importance of surge voltage protection until the damage has been done. In industry, there are more and more decision-makers who chose to avoid the cost of acquiring a surge voltage protection system, ignoring the fact that if something does happen they will face breaks in production and, possibly, considerable consequential costs.

Planners and electrical installers can draw upon various IEC standards to persuade customers to consider surge voltage protection. These standards make clear statements about the protective measures which need to be taken in different instances. If you know the requirements of these standards then you will be in a far better position to argue the case.

Then there is another important question: Can planners and electricians perhaps even be held liable if they neglect to install surge voltage protection? Again, the IEC standards provide information.

Our Partnerships

To help protect you against lightning strikes, SMKA can offer extremely efficient and reliable systems and solutions for direct-strike protection, surge and transient protection, and earthing and grounding.

To learn more about Lightning Protection Systems, or any of the other electrical and lightning solutions offered by SMKA Electric, come along to one of our showrooms and speak to our experts. Alternatively, you can get in touch online.


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