Consumer Alert: Homeowners Warned about the Dangers of Shoddy Lightning Protection System Installations

Be sure your lightning protection complies with nationally-recognized safety standards!

June 14, 2016 — In the aftermath of last week’s devastating home fire in Parker, Colorado, The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) is warning homeowners about the dangers of shoddy lightning protection, while providing insight into what can happen when these systems don’t comply with national safety standards. An LPI field investigation which surveyed remnants of the 70 ft. home’s lightning protection system revealed numerous safety standard violations. (Compliance with lightning protection safety standards, helps ensure quality control for installation materials and methods.) The field investigation of the Parker home cited safety violations including:

  • Metal flue stacks completely unprotected. (This is a bonding violation for lightning protection systems.)
  • Aluminum conductor was incorrectly connected to grounding termination with no transition (required) above grade and conductor downleads (only two found) were incorrectly installed on the front of the home, rather than on opposing corners of the structure as mandated by installation safety standard requirements.
  • Spacing of ground terminals did not comply with minimum distance and soil depth requirements. (Ground rods were right next to the foundation and above grade.)
  • Utilities were not interconnected to the lightning protection system. (Lightning Protection Safety Standards call for common bonding of grounded systems.)
  • Surge protection device/s (SPD) were not found to be installed on the incoming electric service.lp bad bonding vent lp bad common grounding lp bad downlead run
    The field survey photos taken after the home fire reveal numerous installation errors--evidence indicating that the lightning protection system did not comply with National Safety Standards.

    The field survey photos taken after the home fire reveal numerous installation errors; evidence indicating that the lightning protection system did not comply with National Safety Standards.

LPI reminds homeowners that good lightning protection begins with materials and installation methods that comply with national safety standards of LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL-96A. A reputable lightning protection installer will also provide options for a third-party quality assurance inspection of the system.

LPI offers these tips to help consumers eliminate the bad and the ugly when hiring a lightning protection specialist:

  • Be sure the contractor is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. (It’s always a good idea to ask for UL-listing number and evidence of LPI credentials.)
  • Ask for a written proposal and/or design detailing the job to be performed prior to agreeing to have any work performed. Check to be sure materials and methods will comply with U.S. Safety Standards for Lightning Protection Systems such as LPI-175, NFPA 780 and UL96/96A. (Make sure your contractor can cite these standards.)
  • Check for industry affiliations with groups such as LPI, LSA, NFPA, UL and ULPA which are trusted trade organizations for lightning protection. Experience counts, so be wary of start-up companies or contractors offering a “price deal” to install, fix or repair lightning protection.
  • Check references to find out if your contractor has experience working on high-profile projects i.e. historic structures, slate roofs, trees, etc.
  • Ask for maintenance and close-out materials upon completion of the work. NFPA 780 stresses the importance of maintenance for lightning protection systems, citing: “Recommended guidelines for the maintenance of the lightning protection system should be provided to the owner at the completion of the installation.”
  • NFPA also recommends regular periodic inspections and annual visual inspections to assess the effectiveness of the lightning protection system—especially important whenever alterations or repairs are made to the protected structure.
  • Walk away from high-pressure sellers who tell you that you must make a decision right away. When in doubt, contact bbb.orgto locate your local Better Business Bureau to obtain a reliability report for a contractor before you hire.  

Lightning protection installation is a specialty discipline, so homeowners should not assume that roofers, general contractors or electricians are qualified to install lightning protection systems. If your home is equipped with corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST gas piping), you will also want to review applicable industry bonding and grounding recommendations with your lightning protection contractor.

Finally, homeowners concerned about quality control can contact www.lpi-ip.com for affordable inspection options, as a third-party inspection of the lightning protection system can provide peace of mind and help ensure proper installation.

For more information on lightning protection or to obtain a list of certified contractors, visit the LPI website at www.lightning.org.