How To Protect Your Appliances From Lightning Strikes
Lightning can strike anywhere up to 10 miles away from the center of a thunderstorm, and most homes are vulnerable in some way or another to the effects of lightning strikes. When lightning strikes a home, electricity can shoot through the wires of the house and into appliances and other electronic devices. Fortunately, there are multiple ways that a homeowner can protect his or her appliances from power surges. Doing so can save homeowners thousands of dollars in appliance service, repair and replacement.
Unplug the Appliance
This is the most basic and most inexpensive method for protecting your appliances from lightning strikes. Appliances that have been unplugged enjoy full protection from lightning traveling through the wires of a home, provided that the home itself does not catch fire as a result of the lightning strike. However, there are some disadvantages to this method of protection. This method requires you to be at home at the time of the thunderstorm, and unplugging every electrical appliance in the house can be a burden.
Whole-house surge suppressors offer protection from intense electricity spikes. Suppressors are hardwired to the panel box, and should be installed by a qualified electrician. Surge suppressors have features like alarms that indicate when a surge has taken place, so homeowners know when to have an electrician inspect the system for damage.
Plug-in Surge Protectors
By themselves, localized plugin surge protectors are not strong enough to protect electronic devices from direct lightning strikes. Surge protectors protect appliances from low-level surges caused by relatively small events like downed power lines, or the turning on and off of appliances that use large amounts of electricity. However, coupled with a whole-house suppressor, surge protectors can offer protection from excess voltage that the whole-house surge suppressors don't catch.
Consumers shopping for surge protectors should be aware that many products available on the market offer little to no surge protection, and may in fact be glorified power strips. To identify a product that will effectively protect appliances from power surges, look for a surge protector that meets UL Standard 1449 and has a clamping voltage of 400 volts or less. The surge protector should also stop functioning if damaged by a power surge, and must protect all three lines: line to neutral, line to ground, neutral to ground. This information will be provided on the packaging, or on the manufacturer's statement included with the product.
Remember, lightning strikes don't always ruin unprotected appliances. Sometimes damage from lightning strikes are absorbed by one replaceable part of an appliance, leaving the rest of the appliance relatively unscathed. In the event that one or more of your appliances become damaged by lightning, contact a repair person, such as those from Lakewood Appliance, before assuming the worst.