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Basic inspection tips for lightning protection systems:
Examples & photos of damaged lightning protection system components & suggestions for how to inspect lightning protection systems
are outlined here. This article series describes common lightning protection systems, certification, installation, and lightning protection system inspection.
We provide information about lightning strikes, lightning hazards, related equipment, sources of lightning protection system installers, and lightning strike risk assessment. Our page top photo is of the remains of a lightning protection system found on a Poughkeepsie NY home built ca 1935.
We took these photographs of a damaged lightning protection system on an 1865 house in Orange County, New York. (Newburgh NY).
[Click to enlarge any image]
air terminal and conductor were bent down away from the top of the home leaving the chimney and roof (a metal one in an
area of frequent lightning strikes) unprotected.
This is an example of what can happen when someone who is not qualified works on the system.
The lightning protection
system for this home was dangerously compromised when the maintenance crew simply bent components down out of their way.
[The photographs of details of an old lightning protection system shown here were NOT the work of any of the
companies or sources described at this website.]
Example of an Improperly Abandoned Lightning Protection System
The two photographs just below show the remains of the grounding connections for a lightning arrestor system that was installed on a Poughkeepsie New York Home.
But our third photograph (below) also shows trouble at each of the home's chimneys.
Leaving an incomplete lightning protection system on a building may actually be worse than having nothing at all, as especially combined with a masonry chimney (wet, conductive in a storm), a copper chimney cap, and a remaining lightning rod that is no longer connected to ground, this system may be saying to nature "go ahead, hit me!".
In the photo above, the arrow at upper left points to the lightning protection air terminal electrode, and the arrow at lower right in our photo points to the conductor cable that was cut off, perhaps by the roofers or by the house painters when they found that the lightning protection system wiring was "in the way".
We recommend removing rooftop electrodes and conductors that are no longer connected to ground, or if you believe that the original owner and installer felt that there was a reason for installing this system, it should be repaired by an expert.
Below: an example of secure bonding between the lightning rod and the current conductor between the lightning rod and earth. This lightning protection system detail is observed atop the Saxon Tower in Oxford in the U.K.
Below we see the grounding conductor at its connection to the earthing rod at the Saxon Tower in Oxford.
In the U.S. look for the UL certification label for the lightning protection system. Often this tag is screwed to the building wall
outside near where a main cable approaches ground level for connection to the ground rod.
At left is the inspection tag for U.K. lightning protection systems at the Saxon Tower in Oxford in the U.K. in compliance with UK regulations from 1989.
Look for documentation describing who installed the system and when it was last inspected
Look for evidence of burned, damaged components that may have taken a lightning strike and need to be replaced or repaired
Look for missing or loose components such as sections of cabling, air terminals, or connectors which may have been removed. In the
photographs above, a contractor working on the chimney simply removed and bent components of the lightning protection system to
get it out of his way.
In photos shown earlier in this article, the house had a metal roof, a chimney now employing a metal cap and metal liner, and the property had a history
of recurrent lightning strikes on and near the building!
If a "hidden" lightning protection system is installed you will not be able to find all of its components as some sections of
cabling may run inside walls or even inside chimney masonry. But look in the attic for grounding conductors, connections, etc.
Look for a UL tag affixed to the building confirming that the lightning protection system components are UL-listed for that purpose.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) tests and certifies Professional Design/Inspectors for lightning protection systems.
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Portions of this information are based on UL publication 200-81 11/87 and other local service company information about lightning protection systems and lightning strike hazards.
Special thanks to Associated Lightning Rod Company, Cooper Road Box 329A, Millerton NY who has been contributing technical content in presentations
to NY ASHI home inspectors since 1996. Some of that information [on lightning system material and installation details] was edited for clarity. ALRCi can be reached at 518-789-4603, 845-373-8309, 860-364-1498 and will inspect your lightning protection
system at no charge. [We have no financial nor any other business relationship with any company or product discussed at this website--DF]
Lightning strike risk assessment: for the full body of this excellent article which summarizes recent opinions about lightning
strike risk assessment and safe practices for individuals or groups needing to avoid being struck by lightning, see Updated Recommendations for Lightning Safety - 1998 Ronald L. Holle and Raul E. Lopez from National Severe Storms Laboratory,
NOAA and Norman, Oklahoma, Christoph Zimmermann Global Atmospherics, Inc. Tucson, Arizona
As we indicated in an original version of this article, a lightning strike risk assessment guide can be found in Appendix I of the
National Fire Protection Association's Lightning Protection Code, NFPA #780.
The guide considers type of structure, type
of construction, structure location, topography, occupancy, contents and lightning frequency. Contact NFPA, Batterymarch
Park, Quincy, MA 02269 617-770-3000.
Lightning Protection Institute, 3365 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Suite J., Arlington Heights IL 60004
Underwriters Laboratory Standard UL96A. These requirements cover the installation of lightning protection systems on all types of structures other than structures used for the production, handling, or storage of ammunition, explosives, flammable liquids or gases, and other explosive ingredients including dust. These requirements apply to lightning protection systems that are complete and cover all parts of a structure. Partial systems are not covered by this standard. These requirements do not cover the installation of lightning protection systems for electrical generating, distribution, or transmission systems. These requirements do not cover lightning protection components, which are covered by the Standard for Lightning Protection Components, UL 96.
Underwriters Laboratory Standard UL96: These requirements cover lightning protection components for use in the installation of complete systems of lightning protection on buildings and structures. These requirements do not cover the installation of lightning protection components. Products of this type are covered by the Standard for Installation Requirements for Lightning Protection Systems, UL 96A.
"Lightning Awareness," Gerry Schulte, BMW ON magazine, June 2007 pp. 58-60, provided some technical details about lightning, and refers readers to www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Armor Lightning Protection Inc Manchester Center, VT, 802-375-0266
state-of-the-art lightning protection and surge protection for residential and commercial buildings in Vermont, New England, and throughout the Northeast
Associated Lightning Rod Company, Inc., Box 329A, Cooper Road, Millerton, NY 12546 914/373-8309 518/789-4603
A-C Lightning Security, Inc., 2100 East First St., PO Box 329, Maryville MO 64468 816-582-8115 800-821-5575 816-562-2932. In New York, Hudson Valley, contact Christensen Electrical Power Systems, Richard G. Christensen, 518-537-4128.
Lightning Eliminators & Consultants6687 Arapahoe Road Boulder, CO 80303 (303) 447-2828. "Engineering Solutions For Lightning, Grounding and Surge Protection Worldwide Since 1971"
UL - Underwriters Labs Lightning equipment certification program.
"Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) has been testing and certifying lightning protection equipment since 1908. UL issues certificates of conformance for systems, inspecting system components and checking completed installations. Installations are required to comply with UL's internationally recognized Standards for lightning protection systems. Manufacturers, suppliers and installers demonstrate their commitment to safety by building,
selling and installing only those lightning protection products that pass UL's rigorous testing." -- (Op.Cit.)
Aluminum Wiring Information WebsiteAluminum Electrical Wiring Hazards and Repairs: in-depth authoritative info, photos, documents including selection of proper vs. ineffective repair methods. E.g.: Ideal 65 "Twister" purple connector fails in field and lab testing with aluminum wire.
Electrical Panels, How to Inspect in buildings, safety for electrical inspectors, electrical panel, fusing, wiring defects, defective products. Inspection Class Presentation
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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