What to Do When Lightning Strikes Your Home

Few people living in New Jersey would be surprised to hear that thunderstorms are common between April and October, with peak activity typically taking place in July. Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms. When lightning strikes a home, the biggest danger is fire, followed by power-surge and shock-wave damage. In the past decade, over 15,000 lightning-induced fires nationwide have resulted in several hundred million dollars a year in damage and the loss of two million acres of forest, according to the National Weather Service.

Before a thunderstorm hits:

There are a few things you can do to minimize the damage from lightning striking your house. A lightning protection system (LPS) provides a path for the electricity from a lightning bolt to travel safely from a network of rods mounted on your roof, through heavy conductor cables, down to ground rods buried underground. These LPS generally cost less than 1 percent of the value of the structure, or $2,000 to $2,500 for a two-story home, according to the Lightning Protection Institute.

More commonly, there are power surges stemming from lightning strikes nearby. The best way to protect your home appliances, computers and electronics from lightning-induced power surges (or other voltage surges from the power grid) is to utilize UL-listed surge protectors. These power strips are the gateway between your electrical outlets and your devices, ensuring a consistent voltage of electricity. They absorb the added voltage that comes from a surge, protecting your expensive electronics and appliances from surge damage. Surge protectors typically cost between $15 and $150 and should be used at every outlet into which you plug expensive gadgets. You can plug in and start using a surge protector strip as soon as you come home from the store.

There are whole-home surge protectors, which can be installed at your home’s main circuit-breaker panel and provide a higher degree of protection for your home’s electronics and appliances. The whole-home surge protectors have specific installation instructions, and should be installed only by a licensed electrician like Ben’s ProServ.

During a thunderstorm:

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “when thunder roars, go indoors.” Once inside, stay away from open windows and doorways and from any metal pipes. It’s best to stay off phones with cords (cordless and cell phones are ok to use) and away from toasters, hair dryers, or other small appliances. You should also distance yourself from plumbing, sinks, bathtubs and radiators, since water is an electricity conductor. Lastly, take a break from using a computer, playing video games, or using other electronic devices. In fact, it’s best to unplug any high-value electronics. The NJ Office of Emergency Management even suggests turning off your air conditioner, as power surges resulting from lightning can overload your AC unit’s compressor.

If lightning strikes your house, you will likely need your electrical wiring checked.

If your home has been hit by a direct lightning strike, call the fire department/911 immediately. Even if no flames are visible, there is considerable risk of fire in electrical circuitry, within walls or in attics. Once there is no longer a clear and present danger in your home, you should call an electrician to have the electrical system in your home inspected for damage. Unseen damage to wires and circuitry can cause even more harm to electronics and potentially cause fires in the future if not fixed right away. After a lightning strike’s power surge, some appliances may appear to be working fine, while others are no longer working properly. Again, this could be indicative of hidden damaged wiring. Calling a qualified electrician, like Ben’s ProServ, as soon as possible after a lightning strike is key to avoiding electrical issues or fires in the future. Sometimes, your home (or portions of it) may need to be rewired, which includes replacing any burned wires, rerouting damaged wiring, and insulating damaged wires.

Ben’s ProServ is experienced in using specialized equipment to detect hidden electrical damage within the walls of your home. If necessary, we can rewire and restore your home to the state it was in before the lightning strike. We have many years of experience working with insurance companies in the process of mitigating damage caused by lightning to your home.

When lightning strikes, it’s Best to Call Ben. Keep our phone number handy in case of emergencies. To reach the professionals at Ben’s ProServ, call 856-347-3588 or visit BesttoCallBen.com.