According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the United States experiences 22 million lightning strikes each year. Each lightning bolt can carry millions of volts of electricity. To put that into perspective, most home wiring delivers electricity at 120 volts. With all that power, lightning is responsible for several billions of dollars in property damage each year. This is damage to buildings, communication systems, power lines, and electrical equipment. But there are a few steps you can take to help protect your electronics from lightning strikes.
Get a Surge Protector:
First off, it is important to know that power strips and surge protectors are two different things. Power strips are just multi-outlet products meant as an extension to a wall outlet. While some of these do come with some sort of circuit breaker in them, they don’t offer any more protection from power surges than plugging something directly into the wall outlet.
A surge protector, on the other hand, acts like a shield, blocking excess power form reaching your electronics and offering some level of protection against power spikes. But how much protection depends on what kind of surge protector you have. Below are a few things to consider when shopping for surge protectors from Lifehacker.com and cnet.com.
What to look for in a surge protector:
- Joule Rating or Absorption Rate: Surge protectors offer protection in amounts called joules. The joule rating on a surge protector tells you how much electricity the surge protector can absorb over time before it fails. Think of this like a reservoir of protections. If a product has 1000 joules of protection, it can take ten 100 joule hits, or one 1000 joule hit. For this reason, the higher the number the better. The Home Depot recommends getting a surge protector with a joule rating over 600 for normal household use.
- Response Time: Surge protectors don’t kick in immediately. The response time is the length of time, or delay, it takes for the surge protector to respond to a power surge. You want the fastest possible time for the best protection. Look for surge protectors that responds in less than one nanosecond.
- Clamping Voltage: The clamping voltage is the voltage needed to trigger the surge protector. Or essentially, when the surge protector wakes up and starts absorbing energy to help protect your electronics. The lower the clamp voltage the better and it is recommended to not get a clamping voltage over 400 V.
- UL Seal: Make sure that the surge protector you are planning to buy is certified by Underwriter’s Laboratories. Underwriter’s Laboratories is the leading product safety testing and certification organization. It will guarantee that the surge protector you buy will actually protect the equipment you plug into it.
- Wear-Out Warning: Try to look for a surge protector with some kind of light or alarm that will let you know when the surge protector is not working. It’s not always obvious when a surge protector stops working. That’s because many surge protectors will continue to provide electricity to connected devices even when the surge protection capabilities are destroyed. Without an indicator light or alarm, you have no way of knowing if your protector is still functioning properly.
- Number and Type of Outlets Available: Electrical/power surges are not limited to electrical lines and electrical outlets. They can travel along any wire. So you may want to look for a surge protector that protects different types of wiring like cable lines, phone cords, and Ethernet cables. Some surge protectors even include a USB port to help protect your phones and tablets while charging. Also, think about the things you are going to plug into your surge protector before you buy. Make sure there are enough outlets and that they are spaced far enough apart to allow you to connect plugs with bulky built-in transformers.
Unplug your Devices:
The safest way to protect your devices from power surges is to unplug them before a thunderstorm or when they are not in use. Unfortunately, this may not always be possible.
Backup Your Data:
While we recommend backing up your files regularly in case of computer crashes or viruses, it could turn into a life saver if your computer or mobile device does get fried by lightning. It would just add insult to injury because not only would you lose your computer you would also lose all your photos, movies, and important documents. One option is to use ImOn TechHome to keep your important memories and files safe.
High winds can cause trees and branches to fall on your home or on electrical wires. Be sure to remove diseased or damaged limbs so they’re gone before the next storm. While pruning can be done anytime, it is always good to avoid hot, dry periods and extreme winter cold. If tree branches do fall on power lines, make sure to stay away from the lines and contact your local utility company. If branches fall on your ImOn cable lines, contact ImOn Customer Care to schedule a time for an ImOn Service Technician to come out and fix the issue after power is restored.
Check Your Insurance:
Even if you take all the precautionary steps possible, lightning may still damage some of your property or electronics. Check your homeowners or renters insurance plans to make sure they cover damage to your home and electronics caused by lighting.