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Can lightning storms cause home automation equipment to fail if the home is poorly grounded?

Matt tells us: Crestron representatives are claiming that a poor or multiple ground sources are the reason there components are failing during a lightning storm.

Hi Matt,

Thank you for your question regarding electronic components and lightning storms.

The Crestron folks certainly could be correct, however there is no way to know that the problem is specifically lightning related without conducting an onsite survey.  Grounding is of course the single best way to reduce the risk lightning related damage.

Lightning strikes are one of the single biggest sources of damage to homes.  According to the Insurance information Institute the average cost per lightning claim in a residential home in America increased by 39.3% from $3,084 in 2005 to $4,296 in 2009.  Also, the number of paid lightning claims between 2005 and 2009 decreased by 30.1% from 265,700 to 185,789.  This means that home owners have become more and more responsible for the costs of lighting damage.  Creston specializes in home automation systems, which undoubtedly can be quite expensive.

Here are a few more statistics you may be interested in:

  • Lightning caused 30,190 house fires amounting to $175.2 million in losses each year during the 1991-1995 period. —NFPA, 1998 Report
  • During the 5 year period 1992-1996, we paid out $1.7 billion in lightning-related claims. This was 8.7% of total claims and 3.8% of dollar losses.    —St. Paul Ins. Co.
  • Each year we have about 307,000 claims from lightning, amounting to loss reimbursements of some $332 million.  —State Farm Insurance Co.
  • Five percent of all insurance claims are lightning-related, amounting to over $1 billion per year.  —Insurance Information Institute, NY, Press Release 1989.
  • On annual average, we pay out about 3-4% of our claims as a result of lightning. Factory Mutual Companies.  Looking specifically at storage and processing activities lightning accounts for 61% of the accidents initiated by natural events…in North American 16 out of 20 accidents involving petroleum products storage tanks were due to lightning strikes. —Journal of Hazardous Materials 40 (1995) 43-54
  • The most expensive civilian lightning loss on record in the USA was a Denver warehouse hit on July 23, 1997. Damage to building and contents exceeded $50 million.  —NLSI, 1998
  • Some thirty percent of all power outages are lightning-related on annual average, with total costs approaching one billion dollars.  -Ralph Bernstein, EPRI ; Diels, et al (1997).
  • The City of Virginia Beach VA has 321 fully automatic traffic signals. From May 1999 to May 2000 they experienced 359 lightning caused malfunctions at a direct equipment cost of $36,425. Adding up all USA cities, the total costs must be very high.—G. Van Eiken, Traffic Supervisor, City of Virginia Beach VA
  • Utility company nuclear power plant digital and I&C equipment safety feature activations were initiated by lightning in 19% of the cases.  —US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NUREG/CR-6579.
  • Lightning accounted for 101,000 laptop and desktop computer losses amounting to $125,417,000 in damage in 1997.   —Computer Security News.
  • From 1990 to 2000 our records show 346 lightning incidents to our nuclear sites.  —DOE Occurrence Reporting and Processing System Database.

We hope this helps.  If you should have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again in the future.

Best regards,

The Engineering Team at E&S Grounding Solutions


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