Keep Your Home Safe With These Roof Lightning Protection Methods

Alexandra Frost
Written by Alexandra Frost
Reviewed by Eric Gonzalez
Updated February 18, 2022
A beautiful suburban house with a lush garden
Photo: dbvirago / Adobe Stock

Lightning might never strike the same place twice, but once is plenty to do major damage

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Protecting your home from lightning strikes might be the last thing on your mind during a thunderstorm, but could be the difference between a major fire and a safe home. While lightning strikes 25 million times per year in the United States, according to the National Weather Service, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience a lightning strike directly to your home in your lifetime. 

To ensure their homes remain unscorched, some homeowners employ roof lightning protection methods, among other techniques. However, you’ll need to find and hire a reputable contractor to install this system on your property. Here are some proven methods to keep you safe in your next major thunderstorm.

1. Install a Lightning Protection System

While you can’t prevent lightning from striking your house, you can help mitigate where it goes and what it damages in the process. The National Weather Service (NWS) explains that one option is installing a lightning rod, or a lightning protection system that includes multiple rods, to “provide a conductive path for the harmful electrical discharge to follow … and disperse the energy safely into the ground.” The NWS emphasizes that a correctly-bonded system is essential to minimize the chances of any sparks or side flashes, so it’s not something you should try yourself in most cases. Lightning protection systems can range from $400 to $2,600, depending on several factors. Be aware that lightning can still overpower these lightning systems and that they’re not 100% effective. A roof replacement can be the perfect time to install a lighting protection system since many roofing companies can tackle both tasks.

2. Unplug Electronics and Appliances

A man pouring coffee from glass pot in the kitchen
Photo: Aleksandra Suzi / Adobe Stock

If your appliances and electronics remain plugged in, there’s an increased risk for more damage and the lightning strike impacting the inside of your home. Basically, stopping points are a must to redirect the surge into the grounding system rather than into your favorite toaster or coffee pot. Succinctly, surge protection keeps the surge out of areas of your home that could lead to an increased fire risk. 

The Lightning Protection Institute says that aside from direct strikes, contact with an object during the strike (you holding that coffee pot) or fires is what injures people. So, if you know a storm is coming, consider unplugging as many in-home items as you can and avoiding contact with the others you leave plugged in.

The National Fire Protection Association also recommends staying away from plumbing during storms that are at least 10 miles away, including washing your hands, doing laundry, showering, or washing dishes.

3. Use Transient Voltage Surge Protectors

Lightning isn’t the only reason you might experience a surge of electricity through your home or other structures on your property, which is potentially dangerous and can cause fast-moving electrical fires. You might also experience surges when you shut off a large appliance, such as your HVAC unit, or when there’s a nearby downed power line, resulting in fluctuations in your surges before or after the power is on. 

In any of these cases, a whole-house surge protector or a point-of-use-surge protector (such as a 12-outlet surge protector in your home office) can help mitigate extra surges of electricity and protect your home. While they may not protect against a direct lightning strike on their own, they add another layer of defense.

Point-of-use surge protectors usually cost between $20 and $150. Whole-house surge protectors, which may provide additional lightning protection, range from $150 to $475.

4. Evaluate Your Grounding System

If lightning strikes two houses, and only one has an effective and updated grounding system, you can guess which house will incur the most damage. Older homes, in particular, may need an evaluation from a grounding system specialist to determine if lightning will adequately and quickly move away from the house and disperse into the ground as it’s supposed to. 

Newer houses tend to have fewer grounding system issues; they’re now a standard requirement in the building process. Homes built before 1950 were only sometimes grounded, while most homes afterward were usually grounded. 

An electrician can check your electrical grounding system, which is a series of metal piping that acts as a grounding device and protects both you and your electronics. An electrician can give you an accurate quote of the cost of regrounding based on your home’s specifications if needed.

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