Having serviced electronics for 20 years, I've seen a lot of damage caused by both direct and in-direct lightning strikes. Some of the things you can do to help prevent damage, thus saving you money, are quite simple and well worth what little effort is involved. Your options range from completely disconnecting everything, to state of the art surge suppression devices with battery backup. Please read on to learn what you need to know about saving your electronics from disaster.


  • Ground It

    Make certain there is an adequate ground rod located at the base of your foundation, preferably as near the utility junction box as possible. An 8-10 foot, 2" diameter copper rod should be driven as deep as possible. Use at least #8 solid copper conductor to connect the grounding rod to the ground leg on the utility box. It is imperative that the antenna system, as well as the phone, be connected to this ground.

  • Absolute Protection

    The absolute best protection, ensuring no damage, would be to disconnect power cords, antenna or cable connections, and phone lines from your equipment. I realize this seems like quite a hassle, but for the ultimate peace of mind, it's the only solution. With a little ingenuity you can make this task a lot simpler. Using quick connect type antenna/cable connectors wherever possible, speeds up connecting and disconnecting. Disconnecting the main cable or antenna lead unhooks all TVs' and VCRs' in the house. Plugging centrally located items into a utility power strip, allows you to simply unplug the power strip from the wall.

  • Pay Your Money and Take Your Chances

    Surge/Spike protectors range from $2.00 for a simple spike protection outlet, to tens of thousands for battery back-up power supplies for equipment that is rarely powered down. For residential purposes we'll say the options range from $2.00 to $300-400. At the low end of the spectrum, we have the single outlet spike protectors and multi-outlet utility strips. These types of products fall short in their ability to provide any type of fail-safe protection from a spike or surge. Most of these items incorporate a circuit breaker, which can limit damage to a degree. Typically, the breaker is blown by the amount of current drawn by the device that has just been damaged by lightning. Some power strips in the $30.00 to $40.00 range, provide power and phone line jacks for your equipment to plug into. These units have circuit breakers, and often use a spark gap or MOV (metal oxide varistor) device to help absorb the spike to ground. While redirecting some of the spike, most often, damage still occurs due to the ability of the high voltage to jump or arc past these protection devices.

  • Pay Your Money and Rest Assured

    If you plan on purchasing a surge suppression device, your best bet is to spend enough money to get some piece of mind. Once you cross the $50.00 barrier, the effectiveness does seem to be improved. Manufacturers often offer a 100% connected equipment guarantee, with the most common limit to damages being $10,000. While these manufacturers don't provide compensation for lost data or losses due to downtime, they will pay for repairing or replacing damaged items. Units that provide battery back-up are available in the $150.00-$300.00 price range. In the event of power loss or interruption, these products provide power for a number of minutes, allowing the system to remain stable. You can save your work and power the unit down, or unattended units may be powered down automatically. These battery back-up units typically provide 5-10 minutes of power. Some additional features worth mentioning, are network data line protection and a higher damages limit. Typically, they offer up to $25,000.00 in protection.

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