At any instant, more than 2,000 thunderstorms are happening throughout the world. A lightning strike to an unprotected home can be disastrous. Packing up to 100 million volts of electricity and a force comparable to that of a small nuclear reactor, lightning has the power to rip through roofs, explode walls of brick and concrete, and ignite deadly fires.
According to the NASA Kennedy Space Center, lightning-generated fires destroy more than 30,000 buildings in the U.S. at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Thousands of homeowners suffer from lightning s costly surge damage to sensitive electronics and appliances such as televisions, computers, telephones, stereo and home-security systems, lawn sprinkler systems and garage door openers.
Homeowners needn t take their chances with lightning, says Bud VanSickle, executive director of the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). A professionally-installed lightning protection system will prevent lightning damage by providing a safe electrical path into the earth for lightning s destructive electrical energy. The LPI is a not-for-profit nationwide group founded in 1955 to promote lightning safety, awareness and protection education. Scientists, engineers, architects, installers and manufacturers are included in the organization s membership.
The installation of a home lightning protection system is by no means a do-it-yourself project. The importance of experience, industry affiliation and certification cannot be understated to homeowners looking for a lightning protection contractor. Lightning protection technology is a specialty discipline, and expertise is required for system design and installation. It s important that the lightning protection system be installed by a trained and experienced LPI-certified specialist -- other tradesmen are not typically qualified, says VanSickle.
LPI offers the following safeguards for homeowners seeking a qualified lightning protection specialist:
Make sure all materials used feature a UL-listing number for lightning protection and insist that methods comply with the nationally recognized safety standards of LPI, NFPA and UL.
Only an experienced and reputable UL-listed and LPI-certified lightning protection contractor should install your system. A qualified specialist should provide a list of references and affiliation with industry groups such as LPI or NFPA.
A qualified lightning protection contractor will meet the special considerations of your project. Many lightning protection contractors have expertise in working on historic structures, slate roofs, cupolas, trees, etc.
Ask about surge protection. Lightning-induced surges can damage electronics and appliances. A qualified lightning protection contractor can provide options for service entrance arresters and point-of-use surge protection devices.
Be wary of start-up companies or contractors offering a price deal to install, fix or repair your lightning protection system. Compare their prices and quality with other lightning protection companies in your area. When in doubt, contact the Better Business Bureau to obtain reliability report information on a company or contractor before you hire.
The Lightning Protection Institute offers a list of certified contractors across the U.S., along with information regarding the national safety standards for lightning protection installation. Visit the LPI Web site at www.lightning.org for more information.