All about the safety from the lightning strikes – Lightning is one of the most fascinating and spectacular natural phenomena in nature. The powerful electrostatic discharge it represents lights up the sky during electrical storms.

However, it must not be forgotten that lightning strikes the Earth with great force, and without proper protection and prevention it can pose a significant danger to people, animals, buildings and electrical and electronic equipment.

However, there are many interesting facts about lightning that are sometimes unknown. It is popularly known that metallic and pointed shapes attract lightning strikes (hence the lightning rod has that shape). But is this true?

What else do we know about lightning?

If we talk about magnitudes, the rays reach really striking numbers: current peaks of 200,000 amperes and tens of coulombs of charge at a voltage of hundreds of millions of volts. If we compare it with the domestic values, in an electrical installation we usually have 250V and currents of the order of amperes. If a current of around one ampere were to pass through the human body it would cause very serious burns and would pose a high risk of death. Although, it must be taken into account that the lightning wave is very fast, that is why there are people who manage to survive the impact of lightning.

Regarding its temperature, a ray can reach 30,000 Kelvin, that is, it can be up to five times higher than the temperature of the Sun’s surface. Due to this, it is understood that when a person is struck by lightning, the metals that porta with it they become melted.

Types of rays

According to the points between which the lightning occurs, there is the following classification of types of lightning:

The cloud-cloud lightning are going from one cloud to another.
The Intra-Cloud rays are existing within a cloud between different charging areas.
The Cloud-Air rays are electrical discharges into the stratosphere.
The Cloud-Earth rays are produced from a cloud to the ground. This type of lightning is from which we must protect ourselves due to the danger they represent when impacting against beings or structures that are on earth.

How is lightning formed?

Lightning is formed due to an electrification of the clouds. Differences in temperature within the cloud generate upward and downward air currents. Small hail particles and ice crystals are carried away by these air currents, collide with each other and become electrically charged. In turn, the wind carries positively charged particles towards the upper part of the cloud and negatively charged particles towards the lower part.

Due to the influence of these charges, the earth’s surface below the cloud also acquires a positive charge, which generates an electric field that follows the cloud.

Since air is not a good conductor of electricity, the accumulation of charges must be very large so that the electric field is strong enough and lightning can form. When this happens, a channel of ionized air begins to form between the cloud and the surface. The charges attract each other until the path is closed and there is a rapid exchange between charges between the surface and the cloud. The metallic and pointed elements, if they are connected to earth, accumulate more charge and therefore become preferential points of lightning strike.

Why does thunder sound?

Thunder is the acoustic effect of lightning , which occurs because the heating of the lightning causes an ultrasonic pressure wave.

When the air along the lightning channel is heated to such high temperatures, it expands and contracts rapidly, causing the familiar boom of thunder. We could literally say that lightning breaks the air in its path.

Is it possible for lightning to strike if it doesn’t thunder?

The answer is that it is not possible, thunder is the direct result of lightning. If we see lightning, but do not hear thunder, it is only because the discharge is too far away.

Is it possible for lightning to strike if it doesn’t rain?

Although lightning strikes are frequently related to storms that bring rain, it may happen that it does not rain, but that a thunderstorm does occur without precipitation. This phenomenon, known as a dry storm, occurs because rainfall is not abundant and evaporates before approaching the ground.

Sometimes, dry storms pose a danger to people who are outdoors, since it is not raining they could not take into account that there is a risk of lightning. In this sense, it should be noted that many of the deaths caused by lightning strikes take place before the storm arrives accompanied by rain or when it has stopped raining, again because it is believed out of danger. They also pose a great risk of forest fires.

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Where does the most lightning strike and why?

Isokeraunic levels indicate the frequency of lightning strikes in a geographic area. An isokaraunic map can indicate the days of storms or the density of discharges per square kilometer and year, and in general it is represented with lines of equal value, similar to the isobar lines used in weather maps.

The countries with the highest isokeraunic level are those that register warm temperatures and a high degree of humidity, since, as we have seen, storm clouds (cumulonimbus) are formed by the electrification of evaporated water. Countries such as Venezuela, India, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo have a very high number of lightning strikes if we compare it with the world average, while at the poles the incidence is minimal.

In this regard, some studies suggest that global warming and pollution could lead to increased electric shocks.

We cannot control electrical activity in the atmosphere, so it is very important that adequate protection systems are applied to guarantee the safety of people and infrastructures. Today there are sophisticated lightning detection systems that allow alerting about the risk to take preventive measures well in advance.

Lightning damage:

Lightning causes significant damage and loss around the world, especially in those areas with the highest frequency of thunderstorms and during the summer months. It is estimated that there are about 2,000 active storms every day and that approximately 40 lightning strikes per second on Earth, which is a total of about 1200 million lightning strikes a year. Some research suggests that an increase in thunderstorms could be occurring due to climate change and pollution.

The increase in costs derived from lightning strikes has caused concern among insurance companies, which have detected an increase in claims and payments related to the consequences of electrical storms. According to data from the Insurance Information Institute, insured losses related to lightning have increased significantly.

Losses caused by lightning in the residential sector:

Lightning strikes damage structures, the electrical grid and equipment in homes that are not effectively protected.

In the United States alone, insurers pay about $ 800 million in lightning damage to residential property each year. On average, each claim amounts to approximately $ 7,000 in compensation for losses suffered.

Each loss caused by lightning can generate the following damages that, obviously, become costs that insurers must pay:

Fire, with the consequent intervention of firefighters.
Debris removal and rehabilitation, in the event that the lightning strikes the structure of the house.
Breakage of electrical appliances and other electrical equipment, if after the surges caused by a lightning strike, there is no appropriate protection.
Accommodation of the insured and his family if they had to leave the home due to temporary uninhabitability.

Electronic devices are increasingly being used in homes that are extremely sensitive to transient surges caused by lightning strikes. The way to protect these devices is the installation of a lightning rod system, an adequate ground connection and surge protectors.

Sometimes, insurers reject claims caused by lightning, arguing that the breakdown in electrical equipment was not caused by a surge induced by the lightning strike. In this sense, it is very practical to have a counter lightning strike that records the number of lightning strikes and the time at which they occurred. The lightning counter is installed in the downcomer of the lightning rod when there is external protection against lightning, but in the event of transient overvoltages, this is the best solution to be able to demonstrate the real causes of the electrical failure .

On the other hand, in some European countries the insurance premium is considerably reduced if there is protection against lightning in the home, since this protection offers a guarantee that the expenses derived from home insurance claims are reduced.

Losses caused by lightning in industry:

In industry, a lightning strike can have more serious consequences than in a private home. Lightning strikes pose a risk to workers, flammable material storage, or electronic equipment, which could be damaged by surges caused by electric shock.

For these reasons, it is essential to install an effective high-tech lightning rod system that guarantees adequate protection and conducts the electrical discharge to the earthing system in a safe way. This protection is especially important in industries that are far from urban centers, since being isolated they do not benefit from the protection that other higher contiguous buildings could provide.

In addition, when industries have complex electronic devices that control machinery, it is very important to use surge protectors to protect against overvoltages caused by lightning current in the electrical network.

Firefighters and some insurance companies specialized in industrial insurance require that there be protection against internal and external lightning, since only in this way can safety requirements be guaranteed. Although, it should be noted that each country and each insurance company establishes its own rules.

For example, in France hazardous industries or industries that handle flammable products, according to the recommendation of insurance companies, must install a lightning counter as a control measure.

Losses in industries caused by lightning can have minor or very serious consequences:

Workers’ occupational accidents.
Production or service stoppages that produce economic losses.
Electrical damage to electronic equipment.
Loss of data and communications failures.
Damage to infrastructures.

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For the insured company, some losses are very difficult to calculate economically and difficult to prove, such as loss of data. Therefore, the best insurance is always good protection .

Is there a relationship between pollution, climate change and a possible increase in thunderstorms?

Currently, about 25 million lightning strikes fall on Earth each year. In relation to the frequency of lightning strikes, some studies suggest that heat and an increase in temperature have a relationship with the electrification of clouds. In fact, thunderstorms are known to be more frequent during the summer months.

This reasoning could lead us to think that, if climate change produces an increase in global temperatures, an increase in the incidence of lightning could occur.

But could global warming really be causing an increase in lightning strikes? Are there data that corroborate the relationship between pollution and lightning?

Recent research indicates that the number of rays will increase in the coming years.

The higher the temperature, the higher the frequency of lightning: A group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, led by scientist David Romps, has published the results of their research in the journal Science under the title “Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming ”. The research was carried out in the United States, collecting and matching the data provided by the National Lightning Detection Network NLDN (United States National Lightning Network) for a year. As a result of the analysis carried out, they concluded that the number of rays increases by around 12% for each degree that the global temperature in the air increases .

According to the researchers, if the rise in temperatures continues at the current rate, at the end of the 21st century we could experience 50% more lightning strikes than today.
Problems and solutions for overvoltages in the electrical network

There is no doubt that there is a trend towards domotization of homes and that this will continue to increase, since these technologies imply a significant improvement in people’s quality of life. Every time buildings and homes have a greater number of electronic devices that allow to enjoy more comfortable and efficient homes, for example: sophisticated security systems, thermoregulation, automations of all kinds, remote controls, energy management systems, numerous interconnected devices …

The advantages of the Smart Cities trend are clear. However, all the technology incorporated into homes has a single drawback that should be considered and to which a solution must be found: the tiny electronic components of each of the connected devices are very sensitive to surges and break down easily if there is none adequate protection.

But this drawback does not mean that you have to give up smart buildings. Not at all, smart homes and cities contribute to saving time in everyday aspects and creating healthier environments. It is only necessary to find an appropriate solution and protect these devices in a timely manner so that we can extend their useful life and enjoy them for a long time. Providing effective protection is not difficult if the are used right protectors .
What is a surge and how does a protector prevent surges and damage to electronic equipment in a home automation installation?

An overvoltage, also called an overvoltage, is a voltage spike that occurs in the network of an electrical or telecommunications installation. Although the network is protected with the usual elements (circuit breakers and differential), there are two types of overvoltages for which this protection is not enough:

Transient : transient surges surges are short-duration voltage spikes. They are mainly caused by atmospheric electrical discharges, that is, by lightning strikes on the structure, on connected lines or in the vicinity by causing an electromagnetic field that induces transient currents in equipment.Permanent overvoltages: permanent overvoltages are of less intensity, but exceed the mains voltage for a longer time (several cycles). Permanent overvoltages occur, for example, when there is a break in the neutral.

A surge protector, also known as a surge suppressor or surge suppressor, is a device that prevents high-intensity currents from entering the electrical installation and reaching sensitive electronic components, which would be damaged or even destroyed.

ny electrical installation that wants to protect connected equipment from overvoltages (whether they are household appliances or machinery) so that they do not suffer damage, must install this protection. Surge protectors are essential in an electrical installation to guarantee safety, since they can cause short circuits and fires in the electrical installation. Surge protectors contribute to the safety of people and equipment.
Surge protectors specially designed for home automation

It is important that smart homes have specific protection against surges inside the home.

Transient surge protector:

The line VCL SLIM are type 2 overvoltage protectors, that is, they offer coordinated protection that withstands the secondary effects of lightning, leaving a non-harmful voltage for the most sensitive equipment. Protects both three-phase and single-phase power supply lines.

Clamper line products offer total protection, covering protection between phase and neutral, between phase and phase, and between phase and earth. In addition, the residual voltage is very low, which makes it an ideal protection for highly sensitive equipment such as computers, modems, etc.

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