Q&A: Short and Long-Term Effects of Lightning Strikes

Ted Bremekamp from ETC, Inc. explains keys to surge protection, suppressing a massive over-voltage, and what happens when lightning strikes twice.

Clear up the misconceptions of surge protection and energy management.
CE Pro Editors · May 15, 2015

Earlier this week, CE Pro discussed 14 Tips for Surge & Transient Protection for Telephone, CATV, Satellite Services. Learn more about this important topic in a Q&A with Ted Bremekamp from CE Pro 100 integrator ETC, Inc.

Q. They say lightning never strikes twice, but tell me about your customers who have been hit more than once and what they learned?
Unfortunately, some customers learn the hard way that a single lightning strike does not decrease the probability of being struck again. It is inconvenient and troublesome to go through the process of replacing damaged items at the time of the strike and for months afterwards. One strike can be an annoying on-going issue for several months.

Q. Everyone knows a massive surge can fry electronics boards, but what are some of the less catastrophic results of a lightning strike?
The most common side effect is the weakening of power supplies in electronics. Appliances with compressors and motors are also affected and may continue working for several weeks or months afterward, but eventually just fail to turn on unexpectedly.

Q. Is there any way to suppress a massive over-voltage on the scale of a lightning strike?
There are no full proof devices or products that will protect 100 percent if you have a direct lightning strike.  The best thing you can do is minimize the effects and the losses by integrating premium surge protection everywhere a surge can cause catastrophic damage, which includes all low voltage and high voltage lines that come from outside the house.

Some examples include: the data line from the pool controller, the wire from the gate pedestal into the phone system, and the wires from a camera on the outside of the property. These are all places where surges can enter the house and where surge protection should be included.

Q. How do you go about educating customers about the importance of surge protection?
Here in South Florida, we discuss the number of thunderstorms and the frequency of lightning strikes that occur on a regular basis. Most customers watch the local weather reports where they highlight the location and number of lightning strikes in a given day, so it’s just a reality. We discuss how much they have invested, dollar-wise, and that it makes good financial sense to integrate premium protection. 

It’s important to paint a picture of the inconvenience caused by systems not working or locking up because of surges from electrical storms. We use SurgeX surge protection to maximize reliability of system performance for A/V, lightning, control, and network equipment as well.  We will not sell a system without premium surge protection because it’s what’s best for the customer, and we prefer not to deal with the service calls that result from not having it.

Q. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen as a result of a lightning strike?
I have seen a lightning strike where it struck the house at the incoming high voltage lines and it left about a 15” diameter hole in the side of the house. The electric wires in the wall of the house going to the breaker panel were completely exploded and charred inside the wall. It was pretty crazy.

Q. As a dealer, what are the service benefits of installing premium surge protection and energy management gear?
More reliability of equipment working, less service calls and happy customers which means more referrals. Another nice thing about SurgeX is that it does not use shunt-to-ground technology so it does not contaminate the ground during and after surges and transients. This is nice because it also reduces the need to reboot systems and products.

Q. What are some misconceptions people have about surge protection and energy management? 
All surge suppression is the same; it will protect 100 percent from direct lightning strikes; if you have surge suppression on the power line, you don’t need it on other devices like network lines, phone, cable TV, etc.; surges only come on the power side of devices.

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