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How Does Lightning Protection Work?

August 18th, 2023

Last updated: August 18th, 2023

Protection from lightning can be life-saving. It may even be a term of your business insurance, or recommended in a risk assessment due to the location or structure of a building. How does lightning insurance actually work and why does it keep us safe from this natural phenomenon?

The Science Behind Lightning

Lightning is a discharge of atmospheric electricity that occurs between clouds, within a cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. It is the result of an electrical imbalance caused by the separation of positive and negative charges within a thundercloud. When the electrical potential difference becomes too great, a lightning bolt is discharged, as a way to equalise the charges.

How Lightning Protection Works

Lightning protection systems are designed to provide a safe path for lightning to follow, guiding it away from structures and preventing potential damage. These systems consist of several key components that work in concert to divert the powerful electrical energy away from the protected structure.

The following parts make up a lightning protection system, helping to guard against fires and other potential hazards.

Lightning Rods (Air Terminals)

The cornerstone of any lightning protection system is the lightning rod, also known as an air terminal. These metal rods are strategically placed at the highest points of a structure, ensuring they are the most likely points for lightning to strike. Lightning rods are connected to a network of conductors that lead to the ground.

Conductors

Conductors, typically made of metal such as aluminum, form a network that connects the lightning rods to the grounding system. This network provides a low-resistance path for the lightning’s energy to travel safely to the ground. Conductors are routed along the exterior of the building, often following the natural lines and edges.

Grounding System

A robust grounding system is crucial for dissipating the lightning’s energy harmlessly into the ground. This system includes a set of grounding rods or plates buried deep within the earth. These grounding elements provide a path of least resistance for the electrical discharge, preventing it from flowing through the building’s structure and causing damage.

Surge Arresters

Surge arresters, also known as surge protectors or transient voltage suppressors, play a vital role in safeguarding electronic equipment within a building. These devices intercept high-voltage surges caused by lightning strikes and divert them away from sensitive electronics, preventing damage or data loss.

Bonding

Bonding involves connecting all metallic elements within a structure to the lightning protection system. This includes metallic roof components, water pipes, electrical systems, and more. By bonding these elements to the system, you create a unified pathway for lightning’s energy.

What Are the Laws About Lightning Protection?

In the UK, lightning protection is not essential for every business. However, it may be a term of certain insurance policies.

Design, installation, and maintenance of lightning protection systems (LPS) are all governed by IEC 63205, a globally-recognised standard. According to the British Standard Institute (BSI), the IEC paper is the framework for British Standard BS EN 62305, the European standard that was adopted by the United Kingdom. Both have the same components and guidelines:

  • The first section outlines the basic concepts for safeguarding structures, people, property, and electrical equipment against the harm that lightning may do.
  • The second portion deals with risk management, and it outlines the steps involved in assessing the potential harm caused by a lightning strike.
  • The third part covers the criteria for a lightning protection system (LPS) to protect a building from physical damage, as well as the protection of people and property from harm caused by contact and step voltages near the LPS.
  • With regard to electrical and electronic systems within buildings and the reduction of the danger of permanent failures due to lightning electromagnetic impulse (LEMP), the fourth section gives information on their design, installation and maintenance.

Benefits of Lightning Protection Systems

The primary benefit of a lightning protection system is, of course, the protection it offers against potentially catastrophic lightning-related damage. By channeling lightning’s energy safely to the ground, these systems can prevent fires, structural damage, and equipment destruction. They can keep businesses compliant with regulations, and provide a sense of safety and security for occupants during storms.

Conclusion

Lightning protection can be a crucial part of any commercial premises. High buildings are especially at risk, and having the technology to dissipate the lightning safely can make all the difference.

If you are building a new property or altering an existing one, we can install a lightning protection system to BS EN 62305 standards anywhere in Yorkshire. We will work with you from the start to ensure your project runs smoothly and that you have the right level of protection for your needs, as well as creating a risk assessment for your commercial property.

Working across Yorkshire, we cover North YorkshireWest YorkshireEast Yorkshire and South Yorkshire and offer a fast, efficient response time to all breakdowns and repairs. Contact us today for all plannedreactive maintenance or emergency call out. Call 01423 226578 or get in touch to see how Robinsons Facilities Services can help.

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