Lightning may seem like a completely random act of God that is either going to strike you dead or spare you, but fortunately, you have a lot more control over the situation than you think. By following some simple advice on how to protect your home, you can spare yourself from joining the thousands of houses that are damaged by lightning storms every year in the United States. Extremely expensive damage in the form of blown off shingles, fried electronic apparatuses, and burnt rake boards, corner boards and window trimmings can wrack up quite a bill when it’s time for repairs. An efficient lightning protection system can avoid such a snafu entirely. But keep reading, because the answer to how to best protect yourself is not as simple as you may think.
Lightning poles are a common sight on top of many American homes today, and have been for the past century. Conventional wisdom holds that the poles attract the lightning by virtue of being the highest relative point, and that the lightning goes from the pole to the ground without damaging the house or anything else valuable along the way. Things are not quite that simple, though. The pole in fact neither attracts nor repels lightning, but rather channels it if lightning happens to strike it. Therefore, on the off chance that your pole happens to be the target of the lightning, then your home is safe. Otherwise, having it there is more for your own peace of mind than for any real protection. Not to fret, though; an equally convenient but far more secure system for lightning protection exists and can be installed by most home repair companies.
An efficient lightning protection system is like a network of roads that safely direct lightning to the ground, regardless of its initial orientation. A combination of copper and aluminum rods, cables, and connectors make sure that the lightning avoids not only your power lines, but your neighbor’s as well. And along that line of thinking, it is best to get arrestors on all of your incoming lines in case the neighbors themselves are struck without a protection system, and you’re exposed to the risk they chose to take. An uninterrupted circuitry to several grounding points is the ideal model of lightning protection systems, and high standards of quality exist to ensure that any system you purchase has been certified and approved. If you take the chance of buying one without certification, you might be no better off than if you pulled a Ben Franklin and stuck a kite up in a storm.
Electricity is a major part of your life, so you might as well be one of the few people who understand the system of currents and charges to which we are so indebted. First of all, electricity exists in nature regardless of humanity´s ability to harness it. Lighting is the most well-known instance of naturally occurring electricity; its voltage adds the danger to its otherwise fantastic aesthetic. The powerful current of a lightning bolt carries 30,000 amps, and is so hot that it turns the air molecules it comes into contact with from gas into plasma. That material change is what makes the sound we know as thunder.
Static electricity is another form that we experience in everyday life without analyzing it or even acknowledging it. When a balloon at a party pulls your hair out of its normal style into random spikes that is static electricity. The negatively charged hairs are all repelling each other and creating space around them in the process. Same goes for the walk across your living room carpet that leaves you with a shock when you reach for the door knob. Your body has a net positive charge, but as you walk across the carpet and gather electrons via the friction of your feet, your body’s charge becomes net negative. Upon reaching out to touch the door knob, electrons jump from your negatively charged body to the neutral knob in an attempt to restore balance, and the resulting sensation is a shock.
Our own bodies use electricity to perform every single function they carry out. The reason your body even has a charge, as mentioned above, is because of the aggregate effect of the charged atoms that comprise it. Each atom is comprised of a negatively charged electron, a positively charged proton, and an eponymously neutral neutron. The fluctuation in the net charge of an atom as it attempts to make whatever adjustment is necessary to reach neutrality involves the transfer of electrons from one atom to another. The neutrons and protons are not as easily dislodged. Therefore, the human body’s mass of atoms constantly exchanging electrons is perfectly capable of conducting electricity.
Fortunately, our bodies make good use of the electrical currents running through them. The electrical impulses jumping from cell to cell are not empty of content; rather, they contain vital messages about everything from how fast your heart should be beating to what diameter your pupils should contract to and which finger you want to move to scratch your nose. Without the rapid fire tool of electricity to monitor everything, regulatory systems and empirical actions, our bodies would never be able to survive in the complex, dynamic environments we inhabit, nor operate at the level of multitasking we sustain. Luckily for us, we don’t have to fully understand the workings of the voltage that keeps us going- so long as we know the basics of not flying a kite in a lightning storm.