Lightning Protection Institute Lightning Protection Institute

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a lightning protection system and how does it work?

The highly conductive copper and aluminum materials used in a lightning protection system provide a low resistance path to safely ground lightning’s dangerous electricity. These materials and components are UL-listed and specially manufactured for lightning protection. When a lightning protection grounding network is in place, the strike is intercepted and directed to ground without impact to the structure, occupants or contents. A lightning protection system that meets national safety Standards of NFPA 780 and UL 96, UL96A includes strike termination devices, down conductors, bonding, and surge protection. Failure to follow the Standards or use of non-listed materials or methods can result in inadequate protection.

Do lightning rods attract lightning?

No. This is a common misconception about lightning protection. Lightning protection systems and strike termination devices (rods) simply intercept a lightning strike and provide a safe and effective path that takes lightning’s harmful electricity to ground.

Are lightning protection systems expensive?

While pricing generally runs less than 1% of the value of the structure, costs for lightning protection systems vary depending on the size of the structure, location, construction, roof type and grounding conditions. Lightning protection is typically less expensive than other building systems and amenities like security, plumbing, generators and specialty lighting fixtures.

An LPI-certified specialist can provide helpful pricing information for your project and region.

Can I install my own lightning protection?

Lightning protection is not a do-it-yourself project. Only experienced and reputable LPI-certified lightning protection contractors should install lightning protection systems. Qualified specialists use UL-listed materials and ensure that methods of installation comply with nationally recognized Safety Standards of LPI, NFPA and UL. Design and installation is typically not within the scope of expertise held by homeowners, electricians, general contractors or roofers. Only trained experts, like LPI-certified contractors that specialize in lightning protection, should install these systems.

Do trees protect structures from lightning?

No. Wood is not conducive material for lightning. In many cases, lightning can side-flash from a tree and hit a nearby structure. In addition, lightning traveling along tree roots can enter a structure by jumping onto nearby telephone, cable and electrical lines, introducing harmful surges. Lightning can also injure a tree from a direct strike that can cause heavy limbs to split and fall onto a nearby structure.

Are surge protection devices enough protection against lightning?

No. Surge protection is only one element of a complete lightning protection system. A grounding network for lightning (lightning protection system) must be implemented to provide structural protection.

Do grounded weather vanes or antennas protect against lightning?

No. A single path to ground is not adequate to conduct the current involved with a lightning discharge. Installing partial lightning protection as provided by a grounded weathervane, antenna, cupola and even a church steeple can be more dangerous than providing no protection at all. Similar to trees, lightning can side flash to a structure after hitting one of these appliances.

Does insurance cover lightning protection?

Lightning protection systems are generally recognized as “protection for the entire external perimeter” and, as such, are often considered for credits. Policies related to lightning protection discounts vary by insurance company. Since some providers don’t have set policies regarding credits or incentives, the homeowner should contact his or her agent or broker for assistance to determine eligibility for a discount.

Do grounded structures need lightning protection?

The electrical ground installed by your electrician is there to protect the internal workings of the electrical system in your building to accommodate everyday electricity usage. The electrical ground is not designed to handle the mega electricity (100 million + volts of power or 200 kA of electrical energy) that a typical lightning strike can pack.

What does a lightning protection system look like?

Entrusting your lightning protection system design and installation to an LPI-certified professional ensures a safe and effective system that won’t compromise aesthetics. In most situations, lightning protection systems are neat and inconspicuous. When properly installed, components such as strike termination devices, conductors and grounding are barely visible to the untrained eye. There are a number of design and installation measures that can be employed to make lightning protection even less noticeable.

When is the best time to have the lightning protection installed?

Lightning protection can be installed for existing structures and new construction, as options are available to incorporate installation at just about any phase of construction. However, lightning protection that is specified during the planning and design phase may provide the most options for concealing components and materials. Early planning can also allow for better coordination of work with other trades. This coordination can be beneficial when making provisions for chases for interior conductor runs, ground locations and use of compatible roofing components and adhesives. LPI-certified specialists can provide design, specification, consultation and installation services to develop a plan that best fits your project needs.

Do lightning protection systems require maintenance?

LPI 175, NFPA 780 and UL 96A safety standards recommend periodic inspection of lightning protection systems to ensure safety, system continuity and proper maintenance. A maintenance inspection is especially important if modifications to your structure have occurred, including: renovations to roof, electrical system updates, satellite dish installations or HVAC alterations. Maintenance may also be needed if cable T.V. or telephone systems have been serviced in recent years. LPI-certified specialists can advise regarding maintenance plans and industry requirements to ensure the continued performance of your lightning protection system.