Protect Your Home From Lightning Damage

December 2015

Protect Your Home From Lightning Damage

Lightning has consistently ranked among PURE’s top five costliest causes of loss. In fact, the costliest claim in PURE’s history — a total home loss nearing $10,000,000 — is believed to be the result of a single lightning strike. Beyond that instance, lightning is to blame for tens of millions of dollars in damage among PURE members across the country.

Lightning Presents Three Major Risks to a Home

  1. Fire Danger. The biggest danger lightning poses to a home is fire because of the presence of wood and other flammable building materials. Typically, lightning-induced home fires begin at the highest point of a home – in the attic or at the roof. However, lightning’s current can travel through electrical wiring causing a fire to ignite anywhere (and everywhere) along your home’s electrical circuit.  While putting their four young children to bed one evening, a PURE member’s home was struck by lightning, causing a fire to ignite in the attic. The fire quickly spread to the floor below – where the children’s bedrooms were located. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the home suffered significant smoke and fire damage resulting in a claim in excess of $300,000.
  2. Power Surge. A lightning strike can carry up to 100x the amount of energy that a home’s electrical wiring can handle. Thus, a power surge due to a direct lightning strike can completely destroy a home’s electrical system, in addition to any electronics and appliances that are connected to it. A PURE member’s home was struck by lightning during a powerful storm. While the home’s structure was mostly unharmed, the lightning’s surge caused extensive damage to the electrical system and valuable electronics. The home’s lightning, phone and irrigation systems, in addition to audio video equipment, air conditioning, steam shower, pond system, gate opener, and exercise machines were ruined, resulting in a loss of more than $182,000.
  3. Shock Wave Damage. The explosive shock wave produced by lightning can cause extensive damage to a home’s structure. It can rupture cinderblock and stone, blow out plaster walls, shatter glass and create trenches in soil. Chimneys are commonly damaged severely by lightning because they’re often the highest point on a home. During a severe storm, lightning struck the chimney of a PURE member’s home causing the brick to explode. The flying debris caused damage to the home’s exterior including slate tile shingles, air conditioning units housed on the roof, and a cement wall and steps located below. A neighbor’s gutter system was also damaged by the projectile debris, totaling a loss of more than $166,000.

Identifying the Lightning Protection Solution That’s Right for Your Home

The good news is, you can greatly reduce your risk to the damaging effects of lightning with the help of a lightning protection system. There are two effective solutions:

Whole-House Surge Protection

A common misconception is that adequate surge protection begins and ends with simple power strips. Unfortunately, that's seldom the case. Guarding against surges requires a three-tiered system comprised of Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 Surge Protection Devices (SPD). This tiered system is designed to protect your electrical system by blocking high voltages from entering your home and appliances.

The image below displays where these devices are installed on a home and details the investment and resources required to integrate them.

Lightning Suppression System

A more advanced option for defending your home is a Lightning Suppression System. This system, as displayed above, is comprised of three main components: air terminals, conductor cables and ground rods. Lightning Suppression Systems provide a safe path for lightning to reach the ground, thus averting the electrical charge from passing through your home’s structure.

These systems should be installed in accordance with recognized UL standards and include the proper number of terminals required to meet the needs and size of your home. To find a UL certified contractor, visit www.ul.com/lightning or contact a Member Advocate who can help to locate someone in your area. Upon completion of an installation, a Master Label® certificate, which is valid for five years, will be issued to recognize that your system meets the required standards. If any modifications are made to the system, or following the five-year expiration date, schedule an inspection to ensure that your lightning suppression system remains in compliance with appropriate standards.

The following example illustrates the importance of a properly installed Lightning Suppression System.  

A PURE member’s home, which was equipped with a Lightning Suppression System, was struck by lightning which ignited a fire, causing the roof and top floor of the home to collapse. Thankfully no one was hurt, but most of the member’s belongings, including several beloved antiques that were invaluable to the member, were destroyed. Upon inspection, it was determined that the lightning suppression system was installed inadequately and did not provide enough protection for the size of the home. The damage resulted in a claim that totaled nearly $6,500,000.


Additional steps to protect your home and valuables:

  • Ensure that your home’s electrical system is grounded. If you live in a home built before 1950, it’s possible that your home was never grounded. As a result of increased safety regulations, homes built after 1950 were typically grounded. Even if your system was originally grounded, it’s possible for wiring mistakes to render it ineffective over time. While there’s no way for you to determine if your electrical system is properly grounded, many electricians will provide a free home electrical safety inspection to assess if your home is at risk. A PURE Member Advocate can assist with finding a service provider in your area.
  • Unplug high-value items to prevent damage. While whole-house surge protectors and lightning suppression systems provide a great deal of protection, it’s nearly impossible to provide 100% defense against a direct lightning strike. Consider unplugging valuable electronics during a major storm to avoid damage.
  • Make sure satellite dishes are properly installed. Satellite dishes mounted on a home’s roof are highly susceptible to lightning strikes. They should be mounted a few feet below the highest possible location on a home to prevent a direct strike and be properly grounded to allow the electricity to safely discharge. 
  • Back up important files. To mitigate risk, back up and store data saved on your computer (photos, videos, work files, etc.) on a regular basis to an offsite source or external hard drive to safeguard your information in the event of a loss.
  • Take your landscaping into consideration. Consider planting tall trees a safe distance away from your home to avoid damage in the event that a tree is struck by lightning, causing it to fall.
 

computer-icon-contact-us.png To learn more about which solution is best for your home and for assistance with finding a local service provider in your area, contact a PURE Member Advocate® at memberadvocate@pureinsurance.com or 888-813-7873.

 

Tags: Homeowners | Lightning | Weather