Lightning Protection for Lightning Safe Homeowner Association Communities
How Homeowners can Enlighten HOA’s about System Benefits
Awareness about the dangers of lightning to people and property has significantly increased since the National Weather Service began its annual safety campaign in 2001. With consumer organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) citing a demonstrated track record of lightning protection systems (LPS) in helping to reduce property losses, more and more homeowners are examining the cost benefits of LPS. While LPS provide security, increased building resiliency and peace of mind against a common weather peril, not every homeowner’s association (HOA) may have a clear understanding of these systems and the benefits they provide. Although homeowners should expect to be able to have LPS installed on their property with little or no restrictions, sometimes HOA approval may be needed to ensure system materials and methods comply with national safety Standards of LPI, NFPA and UL.
Understanding Your HOA
A HOA is a third-party nonprofit organization created for a subdivision, condominium or housing development to regulate property and various aspects of ownership. New community developments are often required to form these mandatory membership organizations which establish and enforce common agreements for residents. These agreements are typically prepared in the form of covenants or bylaws, which allow the HOA authority to oversee preservation, maintenance and enhancement of both private and communal property. Enforcing the governing documents, collecting unpaid dues, handling resident disputes and dealing with contractors are just a few of the issues HOAs handle. Regarding specific aspects of property ownership, it’s not uncommon for HOA agreements to regulate the following:
* Décor and adornment (painting selection, window coverings, flags and weathervanes)
* Roofing, re-roofing, antennas and weathervanes
* Fencing, mailboxes, basketball hoops and swing sets
* House design sheds, garages and outdoor lights
* Pet ownership
* Garbage cans and compost bins
* Pest control and waste cleanup
Even when home enhancements are not specifically mentioned, homeowners can still be subject to restrictions.
“Since HOA agreements serve a communal purpose, they can regulate many aspects of homeownership,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® “Unfortunately, conflicts between the homeowner and the HOA can arise when guidelines for certain amenities are unclear or omitted. As technology and construction rapidly advances to provide homeowners with more information and options to enhance disaster-resiliency, it may be helpful for HOAs to reexamine certain guidelines to be sure they are keeping pace with mitigation and eco-friendly building trends,” explained Chapman-Henderson.
Navigating HOA restrictions
So what should homeowners do when standard HOA agreements exclude guidelines for energy efficiency products, weather-proofing efforts and disaster-resilient measures such as lightning protection systems? Consultation with the HOA prior to contracting for improvement services is the best plan of action; and education is often a critical part of the consultation process.
For homeowners considering the installation of LPS, the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), is a not-for-profit group that provides resources and educational information about lightning protection and lightning safety. LPI offers the following facts and information about LPS for homeowners to share with the HOA during the consultation process:
- When LPS comply with national safety Standards of LPI, NFPA and UL, they provide proven and effective grounding to dissipate lightning’s harmful electrical discharge. Professionally-installed LPS are inconspicuous to the untrained-eye and do not detract from a home’s aesthetics.
- Lightning accounts for more than one billion dollars annually in damage to buildings in the U.S.-a statistic that doesn’t include costs due to downtime and repairs. Since today’s homes are equipped with highly sensitive electronic systems, LPS are more essential than ever before.
- The complete LPS network includes: strike termination devices (air terminals or rods); conductors and/or conductive structural members; interconnecting connectors, fittings and bonding; grounding electrodes; and surge protective devices (SPD’s).
- LPS improves building resilience and sustainability against a common weather threat. A bolt of lightning can generate up to 200 kA of electrical energy, making the threat of a fire from a direct strike or an indirect electrical surge to a home very real. In fact, lightning is a leading cause of property loss in the U.S., which is why architects and engineers frequently specify LPS for Green and LEED structures as a building resilience measure.
- LPS fortifies technology and is increasingly recommended for smart homes. Lightning can initiate a domino effect path of transient overvoltage which can disrupt, degrade and damage multiple electronic systems and connected equipment within the home. As homes become smarter with intelligent systems, the need for LPS becomes more critical.
- LPS provides an enhanced grounding network for lightning’s mega electricity. Even though homes are grounded for normal electricity, they are still highly vulnerable to lightning’s destructive power which can pack up to 300 million volts of electricity and 30,000 amps. Compared to a household electrical current of 120 volts and 15 amps, lightning’s extreme electricity packs a powerful punch.
- With lightning striking the earth over 100 times a second, LPS provides a value-added home amenity against the weather peril that affects most people, most of the time, in most areas of the country.
- Insurance providers are recognizing the benefits of LPS more than ever before, with many offering policy credits and incentives for safety Standard-compliant systems.
- LPS is an affordable property enhancement. Pricing for LPS typically runs less than 1% the value of a structure (often less expensive than security systems, generators and specialty lighting).
Modifying Community Bylaws for Lightning Safe Communities
When a homeowner has trouble resolving matters with the HOA, it can be helpful to elicit the support of neighbors and the community. The qualified LPS provider is likely to be well-versed in working with HOAs and knowing how to deal with compliance issues and negotiations. Oftentimes, the LPS provider can schedule a presentation and a Q & A meeting to help educate the community and HOA board members about LPS and their company’s track record in providing these services. Since HOA’s are typically governed by state laws, their bylaws also give these organizations the right to impose fines on homeowners who do not comply with the regulations. Naturally, most homeowners want to avoid this type of conflict, which is why it can be helpful to petition your neighbors for support if bylaws need to be examined to include or reference guidelines for additional services. An experienced LPS provider can assist when HOA’s have questions about quality assurance and industry guidelines for LPS.
Final Thoughts to Consider, When Considering LPS
“While it’s true that lightning losses are generally a covered peril in most property insurance policies, there are treasured belongings that homeowners can’t replace or restore,” said Chapman-Henderson. “Lightning protection is often one of the least expensive improvements that homeowners can purchase and it can provide the best type of insurance–peace of mind and protection for family, home and valuables.”
“It’s important that HOA’s understand that safety Standard-compliant lightning protection systems are effective in mitigating the potential disastrous effects of lightning provided they are designed, installed and maintained in accordance with national safety Standards,” explained Bud VanSickle, executive director for the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI),. “Homeowners need to be aware that installation of LPS is not a do-it-yourself project. An experienced LPI-certified contractor should install the system to ensure materials and methods comply with industry Standards,” explained VanSickle.
Need More Information?
Homeowners seeking information about lightning’s risks and the benefits of lightning protection systems can watch this short YouTube video, “How to Protect Your Home in a FLASH.” Homeowners can also visit the LPI website at http://lightning.org/find-an-installer/ for a list of certified contractors.