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What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Home Security System?

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What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Home Security System?
October 15, 2013
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What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Home Security System?

This post was originally published in October 2013. It was updated in March 2020.


When

lightning strikes and the power goes out, your home security could be at risk—if

you have the wrong security system

When we think about weather damage, we typically think about a storm wreaking havoc on the exterior of homes. Strong winds, heavy rain, and lightning are all capable of destroying property. However, we don't usually think about what could happen to the inside of our homes. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for outdoor lightning strikes to affect property inside, especially home security systems.

On average, 30 million points on the ground are struck by lightning in the United States each year. Lightning strikes can disable home electronics and appliances—including home security systems.

Let’s explain what you can do to protect your alarms and why wireless home security systems are more reliable than wired security systems in a lightning storm.

How lightning

strikes affect home security systems

Lightning does not have to hit a home directly to affect the things inside it. If there’s something around the house that can conduct electricity, such as copper pipes or wires, there will be a pathway for the lightning to enter the house. According to the National Weather Service, there are five ways lightning can strike:

  • A direct strike; the least common
  • A side flash, occurring when lightning strikes a taller object and then “jumps” to another object
  • A ground current, when the energy from the lightning strike travels along the ground surface
  • Streamers, occurring when energy moves from the ground back up to a direct bolt of lightning
  • Conduction, when electricity travels through wires or the metal surfaces; the greatest risk to home security systems

Regardless of how the electric current enters your home, wired home security systems are especially vulnerable because they are connected by metal wiring. Anything that’s connected by these wires can be damaged from a lightning strike because of how metal conducts electricity. If unprotected, the high-voltage power from a lightning strike can overload the equipment and permanently damage or destroy it.

Four ways to protecting

your home security system (and other appliances) from lightning strikes

1. Grounding

Grounding is a safety mechanism that connects electrical circuits to the Earth. This protects nearby people who touch a device in the electric circuit from being electrocuted, and it prevents the appliance from overloading by triggering a fuse or circuit breaker. Most homes are grounded with structural steel beams and a metal rod connected to the home’s electrical panel.

To protect outdoor alarm sensors and security cameras from lightning strikes, avoid mounting them on metal. If they have to be installed on metal, be sure to use a proper grounding system or a small copper strap.

2. Surge protection

Inside the home, surge protection is another way to prevent a lightning strike from destroying your security system. Alarm device manufacturers are aware of the threat lightning poses to their systems, and typically build protection methods into their units. Most alarm equipment will have surge protection built-in, usually on the motherboard. This surge protection is limited, however.

3. Backup power

Many appliances, including home security systems, are equipped with backup power in the form of cellular or battery backups. The backup power ensures that your security system or appliance can continue working until the power is restored. If using battery backups, be sure the test them regularly to ensure they are still working. In a Frontpoint system, mobile alerts, as well as the Frontpoint Touchscreen Control Panel, will notify you when batteries are running low so that you can replace them.

Picture of the Frontpoint TouchscreenPicture of the Frontpoint Touchscreen
The Frontpoint Touchscreen Control Panel enables you to manage your home security system from a master screen.

4. Stay notified of power outages

Frontpoint’s security system will automatically notify you when a power outage occurs and when the power is back on. These instant notifications let you know when your security system is at risk.

As an extra measure, if you're in an area that is prone to lightning strikes, you may want to invest in a portable lightning detector. These devices sense the electromagnetic pulses that lightning bolts give off and alert you if they are within a specific range. Handheld lightning detectors are especially useful if you live on a golf course or ball field, or if you have a pool.

Wired vs.

wireless home security during lightning storms

There are two main types of home security systems: wired and wireless. Most modern systems, including Frontpoint’s, are wireless and cellular, while most older systems are hard-wired into the home. In the face of a lightning storm, it’s far better to have a wireless home security system.

Disadvantages of wired home security when lightning strikes

Old-fashioned systems rely on physical wiring—whether it’s a phone line or a broadband connection—making them vulnerable to storms. Lightning can travel through these lines, ultimately reaching the security unit and often destroying it. Wired systems also typically rely on hard-wired electrical power sources and communication methods. If the power in your home goes out in a storm, a wired security system will be rendered useless because it cannot send an alarm signal via the internet or phone lines.

Advantages of wireless home security when lightning strikes

In comparison, a wireless security system does not require a hardline connection since it sends out its signals through cellular communication. A cell phone usually works perfectly fine during a storm; a wireless system is the same—and it's actually more reliable since the signals it sends have far less bandwidth than a phone conversation.

This story from a Frontpoint customer whose home was struck by lightning explains the difference between wired and wireless systems during a storm:

When I bought the house about 30 years ago now, it already had a wired system installed. I used it for a few years, but this past March, I switched over to Frontpoint. One night, a bad storm hit, and lightning struck our house. I was home alone, so I was freaked out when all of the sirens and alarms from my canceled wired system started going off! I tried everything to disarm them—from pulling out the batteries and yanking on the sensors—but nothing worked! So, eventually, I just got a pair of wire cutters and ended up cutting the wires to shut them off. Meanwhile, as all of this was going on, the Frontpoint system was on its backup battery and was working just fine.”

Protecting

your home during a storm

Though there are still merits to having a wired home alarm vs. no system at all, your home will be safer with a wireless security system during a lightning storm. Rain or shine, lightning or calm, a wireless system is more reliable, which is why Frontpoint uses wireless equipment. As a nationwide leader in wireless home security, and among the best-rated home alarm companies in the U.S., Frontpoint is committed to offering you a system that is virtually impossible for lightning to defeat.


Frontpoint makes life easier and more efficient. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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Comments
MERRY
February 10, 2020 at 7:38 AM
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