Do Surge Protectors Protect Against Lightning?

September 20, 2018

Given the amount of thunderstorms the Denver area gets spring through fall, many homeowners contact us wondering if whole-home surge protectors can protect their home’s electronics from a lightning strike.

The answer? No.

By themselves, surge protectors can't protect your home’s electronics from being damaged by a power surge caused by direct lightning strikes—nothing can.

But you should definitely still set up surge protection within your home. Why? Because they protect against two much more common threats—internal and external power surges. We’ll explain how below.

First, though, let’s take a look at the unfortunate reality: no system provides 100% protection from a direct lightning strike.

Interested in installing a whole-home surge protector to defend your home against dangerous surges?

Why nothing provides 100% protection against a direct lightning strike

The bottom line: The electricity in a lightning bolt is much too powerful to be 100% stopped by any type of system.

In fact, a single bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. And not even a full-fledged lightning protection system can divert 100% of that electricity safely into the ground.

The good news is that the chances of lightning striking your home is much more rare than a power surge caused by downed power lines or from appliances in your home cycling on and off. We’ll explain...

These 2 types of surges are more common than direct lightning strikes

Power surges caused by downed power lines or from appliances within your own home are much more common than direct lightning strikes.

External power surges (caused by downed power lines)

Our intense Denver thunderstorms can (and often do) result in downed power lines. Downed power lines can cause power outages. Before the power goes out, though, voltage along power lines often fluctuate wildly, which causes dangerous power surges.

Internal power surges (caused by large appliances)

When larger appliances in your home (like your AC) shut off, all the electricity it had been receiving suddenly has nowhere to go. This results in a very brief increase in voltage throughout your home’s wiring. Anything hooked up to your home’s electrical system can be damaged by this surge.

How to protect electronics from internal/external power surges

The answer? Layer up in surge protection.

Surge protectors work by monitoring the amount of voltage that flows along wiring. If it detects a dangerous spike in voltage, the surge protector immediately diverts the extra voltage into the earth via a “ground wire.”

Two types of surge protectors include:

  1. Whole-home surge protectors

  2. Point-of-use surge protectors

We suggest “layering” your home’s surge protection by installing both types of surge protectors. We’ll explain.

Layer #1: Whole-home surge protectors

To provide the best protection against power surges, you should install surge protection between:

  • The utility lines and your home’s main panel. This whole-home surge protector protects against external power surges.

  • Your home’s main panel and your appliances. This whole-home surge protector protects against internal power surges. Plus it stops any leftover voltage from a large external power surge from reaching your home’s electronics.

Whole-home surge protectors should be installed by a professional.

To learn more about installing a whole-home surge protector, check out our blog How Much Does It Cost to Install a Whole-Home Surge Protector in Denver?”.

Layer #2: Point-of-use surge protectors

Point-of-use (POS) surge protectors are designed to protect one (or more) appliances. POS surge protectors are installed between the outlet and the appliance(s) it protects.

These surge protectors help catch any leftover voltage from larger internal power surges before it reaches your electronics. The good news is that these surge protectors don’t require professional installation. In fact, you can find point-of-use surge protectors at most general stores and can install them easily on your own.

Interested in whole-home surge protection for your Denver home?

We’ll help determine your home’s surge protection needs and help you pick the surge protector that works best.

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