You need electricity to power your home’s appliances, TVs, and computers. But when lightning strikes, damage can occur to outlets, electronics, and your electric panel box, creating an electrical emergency. We spoke with Ted Puzio, Southern Trust Home Services owner, to get his tips on protecting your home from lightning and what to do during an electrical emergency.
How to prevent lightning from hitting your house
There’s no foolproof way to prevent lightning strikes on your home, but there are things you can do to minimize the damage.
First, disconnect appliances, TVs, computers, and other equipment from outlets. Remember to unplug modems, phone lines, and cable lines.
Invest in whole-home surge protection
Have an electrician install a whole-house surge protector at your main electrical panel to minimize the effect of surges on your wiring. Choose one with a battery backup for protection when you lose power.
Use point-of-use surge protectors
Get surge protectors (not power strips) for each device you want to safeguard. Check the joule rating, which tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails, before purchasing. The higher the rating, the better.
Avoid joule ratings under 1,000 unless you’re protecting a small device that doesn’t store important data. “The cheaper ones won’t have the best joule ratings,” Puzio said. “You’ll pay more [for a better rating], but it’ll be worth it in the long run.”
Ground your house for lightning
Your home’s electric panel box should have a sound grounding system outside. Lightning looks for the best path to the ground. If it doesn’t have one outside, it will search for one inside your home. If lightning is a common issue where you live, you can hire a professional to install a lightning protection system. These systems don’t prevent lightning strikes on your home. They redirect strikes to the ground, minimizing damage.
Lightning protection systems typically include lightning rods, conductors, grounding, and surge suppressors.
What should you do if you have an electrical emergency?
Lightning strikes at or near your home can lead to electrical emergencies and other damage. Here’s a list of common problems lightning can cause and how to handle them.
A power surge occurs when a temporary increase in voltage comes through the power lines. They can damage computer boards in electronic devices. If a TV, computer, or appliance isn’t working correctly, you may need to replace it or get a professional to repair it.
If there is a power outage and the utility company restores power, it can send a surge through your electrical system. Unplug devices to prevent damage when the power comes back on. Learn more about how home insurance covers power surges.
If there is a downed power line, call the utility company to report downed power lines in your area. Don’t approach them because they could be dangerous. When lightning strikes or trees fall onto power lines, fires can start. If there’s a fire in your home or yard, get to safety and call 911.
And remember, just because the power is on doesn’t mean your outlets are working correctly. Reset and test GFCI and AFCI receptacles after a storm. Call an electrician to repair or replace them if they’re not working correctly. Learn more about how home insurance covers storm damage before the next one hits.