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Lightning and Voltage Surge

Lightning can create voltage surges in several of the following ways. Lightning can score a direct
hit on your house. It can strike the overhead power line which enters your house, or a main power
line that is blocks away from your home. Lightning can strike branch circuitry wiring in the walls of
your house.
Lightning can strike an object near your home such as a tree or the ground itself and cause a
surge.Voltage surges can be created by cloud to cloud lightning near your home. A highly
charged cloud which passes over your home can also induce a voltage surge.
Voltage surges can also be caused by standard on and off switching activities of large electric
motors or pieces of equipment. These surges can be created by a neighbor, or by a business or
manufacturing facility some distance from your house. These surges are insidious and for the most
part are silent.
They can occur with little or no warning.

Methodology to Suppress Lighting and Voltage Surge:


When a voltage surge is created, it wants to equalize itself and it wants to do it as quickly as
possible. These things seem to have very little patience. The surges will do whatever it takes to
equalize or neutralize themselves, even if it means short circuiting all of your electronic equipment.
The method of providing maximum protection for equipment is quite simple. Create a pathway for
the voltage surge (electricity) to get to and into the ground outside your house as quickly as
possible.
This is not, in most cases, a difficult task.
The first step is simple. Create an excellent grounding system for your household electrical
system. The vast majority of homes do not have an excellent grounding system. Many homes have
a single grounding rod and /or a metallic underground water pipe which are part of the electrical
grounding system. In most cases, this is inadequate. The reason is somewhat easy to explain.
Imagine putting a two inch fire hose into your kitchen sink and opening the nozzle to the full on
position. I doubt that the drain in your sink could handle all of the water. Your grounding system
would react in the same way to a massive voltage surge. Just as the water jumps out of the sink,
the electricity jumps from the grounding system and looks for places to go. Frequently it looks for
the microchips in your electronic devices. They are an easy target. They offer a path of least
resistance.
Voltage surges want to be directed to the grounding system, and when they do, they want to get
into the ground around your house in a hurry. You can achieve this by driving numerous grounding
rods into virgin soil around your house. These rods should be UL approved and connected by a
continuous heavy solid copper wire which is welded to each grounding rod. This solid copper wire
begins on the grounding bar inside of your electrical panel and terminates at the last grounding

rod. Avoid using clamps if at all possible. Over time, the connection at the clamp can corrode or
become loose creating tremendous resistance. This will act as a roadblock to the electricity trying
to get into the ground around your home.
The grounding rods should be at least ten feet apart from one another. They should be located in
soil which readily accepts electricity. Moist clay soils are very desirable. Rocky, sandy, or soils with
gravel generally have high resistance factors. Electricity has a tough time dissipating into them.
Resistance readings should be in the range of 10 to 30 ohms. The lower the better.
The second step in household surge protection is to install a lightning arrester inside of your
electric service panel. These devices can be extremely effective in intercepting large voltage
surges which travel in the electric power lines. These devices capture the voltage surges and
bleed them off to the grounding wire which we just spoke of. If for some reason you do not have a
large enough grounding wire, or enough ground rods, the arrester cannot do its job. It must be able
to send the surge quickly to the ground outside of your house. These arresters range in price from
$50.00 to $175.00. Almost every manufacturer of circuit breakers makes one to fit inside their
panel. They can be installed by a homeowner who is experienced in dealing with high voltage
panels. If you do not have this capability, have an experienced electrician install it for you.
The final step in the protection plan is to install point of use surge suppression devices. Often
you will see these called transient voltage surge suppressors. These are your last line of defense.
They are capable of only stopping the leftover voltage surge which got past the grounding system
and the lightning arrester. They cannot protect your electronic devices by themselves. They must
be used in conjunction with the grounding system and the lightning arresters. Do not be lulled into
a false sense of security if you merely use one of these devices!
The point of use surge suppression devices are available in various levels of quality.Some are
much better than others. What sets them apart are several things. Generally speaking, you look to
see how fast their response time is. This is often referred to as clamping speed. Also, look to see
how high of a voltage surge they will suppress. Make sure that the device has a 500 volt maximum
UL rated suppression level. Check to see if it has an indicator, either visual or audio, which lets you
know if it is not working. The better units offer both, in case you install the device out of sight.
Check to see if it offers a variety of modes with respect to protection. For example, does the device
offer protection for surges which occur between the hot and neutral, between hot and ground, as
well as between neutral and ground. There is a difference! Check to see if it monitors the normal
sine waves of regular household current. Surges can cause irregularities in these wave patterns.
Good transient surge suppression devices devour these voltage spikes. Finally, check the joule
rating. Attempt to locate a device which has a joule rating of 140 or higher. Electrical supply
houses often are the best place to look for these high quality devices.
Some devices can also protect your phone equipment at the same time. This is very important for
those individuals who have computer modems. Massive voltage surges can come across phone
lines as well. These surges can enter your computer through the telephone line! Dont forget to
protect this line as well. Also, be sure the telephone ground wire is tied to the upgraded electrical
grounding system.

How Does a Surge Arrester Work?


A surge arrester is a device that protects electrical power systems from
damages caused by lighting. A typical surge arrester has both a ground
terminal and a high-voltage terminal. When a powerful electric surge travels
from the power system to the surge arrester, the high voltage current is sent
directly to the insulation or to the ground to avoid damaging the system.

Lightning and Electrical Surges


When a powerful surge or a lightning strikes a particular electrical system, it
damages the whole system and any electrical devices connected to the
system. Electrical devices work at a certain voltage range. When these
devices receive a voltage way higher than the specified voltage sufficient for
their operation, they blow up or get damaged. However, electrical systems
that are protected by a surge arrester do not get damaged, because the
arrester ensures that the high voltage does not get into the electrical
system.

Diverting Lighting and Electrical Surges Using MOV


The surge arrester does not absorb all of the high voltage that passes
through it. It simply diverts it to the ground or clamps it to minimize the
voltage that passes through it. The secret to the arrestors success in
diverting lightning or high electrical surges is the MOV or the Metal Oxide
Varistor. MOV is a semiconductor that is highly sensitive to voltage. At normal
voltages, the MOV works as an insulator and does not allow current to pass
through. But at high voltages, the MOV acts as a conductor. It works as a
switch that is open when there is a standard AC voltage, and a switch that is
closed when lightning or high voltage is present.

What Causes Electrical Surges


Electrical surges occur when an incident increases the electrical charge
running through a power line at some point. The most popular cause of a
surge is lightning. However, lightning causes electrical surges only every
once in a while. During a lightning storm, lightning may strike somewhere
near a power source and affect the voltage running through a power line.

Sometimes, the best way to protect an electrical device from the effects of a
lightning surge is unplugging it from the power source. A surge arrestor may
not work 100 percent of the time because lightning can produce very high
voltages that even surge arresters cannot fully handle.
More often than not, electrical devices that rely on high electrical power
cause electrical surges (e.g. refrigerators and elevators). The operation of
these devices sometimes causes a sudden demand for electricity that upsets
the flow of current in an electrical system. Even if these surges do not cause
as much damage as a lightning surge, they can still inflict major damage to
some electrical devices connected to the electrical system.

Installing Surge Arrestors


Surge arrestors are usually installed near an electric meter to protect the
electrical system of a home or building from the effects of power surges
coming from the outside. A surge arrestor can protect other electrical
equipment connected to the power source, but may not provide total
protection against surges that come from faulty wiring or the overall
electrical functioning of household or office electrical appliances.