Thunderstorms are a common occurrence in the spring, summer and fall around here. Some like the natural spectacle. Some don’t want anything to do with the rain, wind, thunder and lightning. The safest thing for our personal safety is to get inside. If you’re in your home, and have time before the thunderstorm rolls in, should you unplug your electronics during a thunderstorm? Are you at more risk if you’re using electronics while there’s lightning in the area?
It is safer to first, not use electronics during a thunderstorm. Then, if possible, it’s safest and better for the survival of the electronics, to unplug devices and appliances.
Think of this, lightning generates about 15 million volts of electricity. It reaches a temperature of 50,000 degrees. Lightning can do damage if it strike near your home, such as striking a power line near your home. The power can travel through your house’s electrical system and be a personal and property danger.
Keep Yourself Safe
The most important thing during severe weather isn’t a TV, computer or appliance, it’s safety for you and your family. If you are outside with a thunderstorm approaching, it’s best to get indoors or undercover.
Once you’re inside, some basic things to remember are not using landline or plugged in phones, computers or other devices. Unplugged cell phones are safe. You don’t want to be in direct contact with a device electricity could pass through. You don’t want to be in contact with plumbing, as it could be an electric conduit, or take a shower or bath, water, even inside, is still an electrocution risk.
We’re used to seeing lightning and thunderstorms here in the Carolinas. This isn’t the busiest place around the world, though. Worldwide, lighting strikes the ground, as in cloud to ground lightning, about 100 times per second. This adds up to about 8 million strikes a day and 3 billion strikes a year.
The most lightning strikes take place in tropical areas of the Earth. About 70% of lightning strikes happen in tropical areas. Venezuela is the country with the most lightning strikes recorded. Africa is the continent with the most lightning.
What’s Most Likely to be Damaged During a Thunderstorm?
In most situations, on most of our busy days, we probably don’t have the time ahead of a thunderstorm to unplug everything, every single appliance and device. What are the most important devices to unplug or not use? What’s the most susceptible to lighting, or what’s most dangerous to us?
First, anything we’re likely to touch or hold which is plugged in or has wiring. Think of a landline phone or a cell phone plugged into a charger. There’s a computer vs. a (unplugged) laptop.
It’s probably not practical to unplug everything in a kitchen or bathroom, but it’s also best to hold off on using hair dryers, toasters, coffee makers and microwaves. Computers, TVs and video game consoles are prone to power surges and getting fried. Any device with a microprocessor – computer, TVs, consoles, smart appliances now – are more sensitive to a huge surge in voltage, even a man-made one, so even more to lightning.
You’ve probably been near and seen a power surge in your home. The power blinks off and on, then it’s typically over and fine. A power surge is a voltage increase. It disrupts the electric current into your house. Most of the time, it’s nothing. Maybe it’s enough to trip a circuit breaker. Maybe it causes a computer to turn off or restart.
With a lightning strike on or near your house, it can be a different story. Electric currents in most homes and buildings in the U.S. run at an alternating current at 120 volts. Compare that to the 15,000,000 volts of a lightning strike.
What Devices can be Damaged by a Power Surge?
Surges, depending on the source it’s coming from, can create huge spikes in voltage and electric current flowing through your electric system to all the devices or systems plugged into it. Major appliances, such as a refrigerator or laundry machines, or whole systems, like an HVAC system, or many smaller devices, are all connected. Operating an electronic device while a surge from lightning is more likely can be harmful to the devices and to you or family members.
A power surge raises the voltage well beyond its normal level for a very brief moment. This can trigger damage to digital devices as it creates a spike in current which causes intense heat which can damage components, boards and processors.
Protection vs. Power Surges
Some modern electronics are smaller, yet more powerful, than ever. This is great most of the time. Yet, it makes then more susceptible to being fried in a split second.
So, how do we shield them from sudden surges of electricity?
Surge protectors are a good option for protecting devices from surges. If there is a strike or surge, the protector will draw away that energy into its ground wire.
One more choice is a surge arrestor. It is mounted where electricity enters your residence. It can protect your electronics from voltages as high as 6,000 volts. Some systems now can be set to monitor the weather and cut power to sensitive devices. You will need to consult a technician if you are setting up a surge arrestor system.
When is it a Good Time to Call an Electrician? Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide everything you need when thinking about a whole home generator for your home and family. Our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.