How It Works

Before we tell you how it works, let us help provide some brief facts about lightning protection systems (LPS) and what comprises a system. A LPS is a combination of five key components or elements that are installed on building structures. These components are:

  1. Air Terminals (lightning rods)
  2. Conductor Cable
  3. Grounding System
  4. Bonding
  5. Surge Protection Devices (SPD)

These components are installed on structures to create a direct path for lightning to safely travel should the system be struck. The system itself will not attract or distract lightning strikes but is merely in place for taking strikes safely to ground should the system be struck. If the structure does not contain a lightning protection system, there are other potential methods for structural damage to occur as lightning enters a structure while seeking a direct path to ground. These other methods include electric wiring, phone lines, metallic water and gas lines, metal frame doors among many other possibilities. Lightning is a respecter of nothing as it looks for the best way to get to ground.

Another potential issue with lightning is that it is capable of jumping or branching into other elements as it seeks to find ground. Consider that lightning may find its way into a structure via the cable television line which could easily jump over to a water line because the water line is much more conductive over the cable line.  Side flash issues only complicate the problem and potential cause additional damage.

With a LPS installed, you are creating that safe pathway for lightning to get to ground. The purpose of the system is to protect the building from damage and at the same time, it protects the building occupants from injury should the building be struck. In summary, the LPS does not attract lightning strikes, it does not dissipate the charge from lightning strikes but it does provide a system to discharge these powerful charges to ground.

Thunderstorm Formation -In order for thunderstorms to develop, three components are necessary: moisture, instability and a trigger or source of lift. This might be a cold front or the sun’s hot temperature. Within the cloud itself are droplets of rain which freeze, bounce around inside the cloud and this then will create electrical charges. The positive protons form at the top of the cloud while smaller bits of Ice particles drop out the bottom of the cloud as electrons or negative charges. As these negative charges are at the bottom of the cloud, they are attracting positive charges rising up from taller objects on the ground like tall buildings, trees and houses to name a few objects. If these two charges are able to connect and meet, we have a lightning strike.

On a lightning protected structure, these positive charges will be transferred from the ground and will leap out the top of the system. If the positive ground charges are able to connect with the negative charges at the bottom of the cloud, the lightning strike will be transferred back through the system and safely to ground. In a LPS, the system handling the strike. If there is no system in place, then the house, tree or other building is at risk of being damaged by a lightning strike.

So the solution to minimize most damage caused by lightning is the installation of a lightning protection system.  These powerful discharges travel safely to ground through a system versus finding wiring, plumbling or something else and causing structural damage, fire or total destruction.  Contact IPC today and let us assist you and answer your questions.