While fatalities and injuries from lightning strikes are extremely rare, property damage and homeowners insurance claims are more common. The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that the average cost of homeowners insurance claims for lightning doubled between 2017 and 2020.
Fortunately, it’s possible to get protection from lightning with a home lightning protection system. These systems may include lightning rods for the house, as well as other components like surge protectors that can protect your home’s circuitry and electronic devices.
How does whole-house lightning protection work?
Lightning is a very powerful electrical spark, usually between the clouds and the ground. It seeks the fastest, most direct route to an area where it can disperse when it discharges. As a result, it usually hits the highest point in the area, where it strikes and then travels down toward the ground. It can cause burns and other damage to the objects it passes through as it travels.
A home lightning protection system works by equipping your home with a highly conductive path to the ground — a metal strike point attached to wires that lead into the earth. This system allows the lightning to disperse without passing through your house, where it could cause burns, explosions, or other damage to the home.
How to prevent lightning strikes on your home
Tall trees on your property are not a substitute for a home lightning protection system, according to the Lightning Protection Institute, because wood isn’t conductive enough. Lightning can still jump from a tree to your house. If the lightning reaches the tree’s roots, it can radiate along them and hit more conductive materials like phones and electrical lines.
A whole-house lightning protection system usually includes multiple strike points and multiple ground rods that go at least 10 feet underground to disperse the lightning. They also may include special components for tall trees and other similar objects on the property to prevent “side flashing” (e.g., lightning striking an object and jumping to a second object).
Home lightning protection systems also typically include surge suppressors to avoid lightning’s electrical discharge causing an electrical overload in your home that can start a fire. Even with surge suppressors in place, you may want to consider other house fire prevention tips like using surge protectors for sensitive electronics. Learn more about how home insurance may protect your home from power surges.