Why do residential buildings need lightning protection?

Why do residential buildings need lightning protection?
21 December, 2023

Nowadays, technology does not stop developing and occupies a central place in our daily lives. However, residential buildings are still vulnerable to the elements, especially one of the most unpredictable and destructive phenomena - lightning. The main reason is that most of the buildings in Bulgaria still do not have or have outdated lightning protection. This poses a serious risk not only to their occupants, but also to the integrity of the structure.

Wondering if it's time to switch to a new security system? In this article, we at Blitz Guard will introduce you to the nature of lightning. Our specialists will also tell you why good lightning protection will protect your building from structural damage.

What is the nature of lightning?

Lightning is a natural phenomenon that can hardly be predicted. It is the result of static electricity that is created in large clouds of water vapor. It forms between the ground and the clouds and produces a bright light and a loud noise called "thunder".

An electric charge can be compared to a needle, and lightning itself to a thread. It is practically impossible to determine in advance the trajectory of lightning. Considering that it moves at a high speed and the energy in it reaches 100 kW it is very difficult to calculate its end point. One can only make rough guesses or guess where it will fall.

The electrical discharge forms highly ionized air heated to thousands of degrees. Impulse currents flow with colossal speed in the lightning channel. Their main purpose is to equalize the potential difference between the thundercloud and the ground.

The electric potential between the cloud and the ground can exceed 100,000,000 V. The length of a lightning reaches from 2.5 km to 20 km, and the speed of propagation can reach up to 220,000 km/h.

The electric current in lightning varies between 30,000 and 200,000 A, while the pressure, due to the explosive expansion of the surrounding air, can reach up to 100 Bar.

If lightning strikes a residential building, it can cause not only damage, but the consequences can be tragic. Let's give you an example to help you understand the potential of lightning bolts:

Imagine a two-story wooden building with a metal roof, located near the lake. During a storm, she was struck by lightning. The most likely scenario is to blow a hole in the roof and damage the rafters. Another possibility is to cause a fire to spread quickly to wooden surfaces. Of course, there are thousands of possibilities - broken insulation, short circuits and equipment failure, damage to the facade, windows and others.

Can you prevent this?

Yes! To prevent this from happening, you need a quality and well-built lightning protection. As we have shared with you before on our site and blog, this is a special installation and technical solutions. They are prepared individually, according to the characteristics and needs of the specific building or facility. In general, the lightning protection system has the same elements:

    • lightning rods (surge arrester);

    • current arresters (cables connecting the lightning rod to the grounding system);

    • grounding (ground rods, busbars and a combination of these).

The differences between the specific systems are in the degree of complexity of the object in which they are installed and its parameters. For example, when installing lightning protection in a boiler room, it is necessary to install a lightning protection and grounding installation on non-metallic pipes. If the pipes are metal, it is not required to build a lightning protection installation, but it is necessary to perform an earthing installation, because metal is an excellent conductor.

Which buildings need lightning protection?

There are many buildings that are at risk not only because of their height, but also because of their construction. Some are also at risk due to their technical installations and the facilities located on their territory.

Buildings at increased risk are:

    • Industrial structures - water treatment plants, power distribution facilities and others.

    • Medical facilities - hospitals and homes for the elderly.

    • Historical buildings - castles, churches.

    • Buildings with a large number of residents - residential, student buildings and others.

    • Educational buildings - schools, colleges, universities, kindergartens and nurseries.

We can conclude that every facility and structure needs a proper lightning protection system. There is also the risk that other places in the vicinity will be hit, but the surge will pass through the interconnecting cables and damage your building. For example, this can happen when lightning strikes a power line or an adjacent structure located in close proximity to yours.

Why are residential buildings at greater risk?

The risk depends on a number of factors, including location, height, type of structure, prevailing climatic conditions.

There are many possible explanations for why lightning might strike a particular residential building. It may be taller than other nearby structures and therefore more likely to be hit. Another option - to be made of materials that are particularly conductive to electricity. It may also have some other characteristic that makes it more susceptible to impact - location relative to other structures, proximity to trees, etc.

This happens under certain weather conditions, so if there is no thunderstorm in the area, it cannot happen.

What happens when lightning strikes a residential building?

When lightning strikes a particular residential building, it can move in different directions. The electrical discharge is usually aimed at the least resistance. This means that electricity can flow through the wiring and plumbing.

If you don't have proper external and internal protection, electricity can reach your home and cause an electric shock or power surge. As a result, it can damage the equipment and electrical appliances that were currently connected to the network - TVs, computers, household appliances and others.

This is just one of the possibilities. If the shingles and gutters are dislodged or damaged by a strong enough impact, the roof is in danger. The residential building may suffer damage to the roof and facade.

Lightning can also cause a fire. The reason is that the heat generated by the lightning current can ignite anything in the path of the strike, including easily flammable materials such as wood. If the fire is not extinguished in time, it can spread and cause extensive damage to the residential building.

What is the chance of lightning striking your building?

You may be asking yourself questions like, "What is the chance of lightning striking your building?" and "If the risk isn't that great, why does she need lightning protection?".

There is no definitive answer to these questions. As we have already shared, thunderstorms are unpredictable natural phenomena that can affect any building or structure WITHOUT proper protection.

Residential structures are generally more at risk than those that are open and fully exposed to the weather. However, outdated and ineffective lightning protection can NOT provide you with the safety you need.

If your residential building falls into the path of lightning, only quality and well-designed lightning protection can protect it from damage!

Need professional advice?

We, at Blitz Guard, have many years of experience and are ready to become your new partner! Contact our consultants by phone: 02/ 963 13 22.

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