Frequently Asked Questions
I'M NOT SURE HOW TO INSTALL LIGHTNING RODS
Study our basic roof layout design. Basic Instructions if studied will provide you with most information that you need. In case you need help, we can also have a designer and installer available to guide you with your questions. If you STUDY ALL of these FAQ’s it will help you considerably and you will feel like a pro when you install your system.
DOES YOUR EQUIPMENT HAVE A WARRANTY AND WILL IT WORK ?
All of our Lightning Protection Equipment is made in the USA and is manufactured to meet (and actually exceeds) the requirements of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and LPI (Lightning Protection Installers) You can’t warranty mother nature but our materials won’t fail. A correctly installed system is over 99% effective. Our equipment that you buy from us surpasses the highest quality standards. There are many foundries out there and we hand pick the best of the best, and yes, it costs us more but our customers appreciate the best quality and affordable prices.
I DON’T SEE WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR ON YOUR SITE.
That’s correct. There are hundreds of parts, too many to list on our site and will most likely confuse you and you may think you need it all. If there is something you need, just call, we either have it or can get it in several days. We carry Commercial Building application supplies and other special applications.—Just PLEASE call us if there is something else you need. Many things come in different sizes as well.
ARE OUR PRICES COMPETITIVE?
Our prices are wholesale and the materials are of the highest quality. You get what you pay for, so are a few extra dollars saved worth your life? But yes, our prices are competitive. Like we stated above, we hand pick the best of the best and it costs us more but our customers appreciate the heavy duty solid construction and precision materials we handle.
HOW LONG HAS AUTOMATIC LIGHTNING PROTECTION BEEN IN BUSINESS?
Our company has been in business since 1966, and family owned. We’re not only here now to sell you something but will be here for you later when you have an issue and need us.
WHAT IS YOUR SHIPPING POLICY?
We generally ship your order by the next business day after you place your order. Sometimes we get it out the same day. We use UPS and insure our product. Please keep in mind we do all we can to get your order to you on time but, once in a while UPS can and will get shipments messed up. Except for special orders, all you have to do is wait for the order to go out and get to your area. We charge a minimum of $12.00 for shipping. And 10% up to a maximum of a $65.00 shipping charge. So if you are ordering $3675.76 worth of materials, your maximum shipping charge is only $65.00 plus a $2.00 Fuel Surcharge.
HOW DO WE HANDLE RETURNS?
There is a 15% restocking fee on ALL returned items and they must be returned within 10 days and you must call us for a Return Authorization Number or credit will not be given. Also, there are NO returns on cable and special orders. You are responsible for shipping costs back to us and you will not be credited for the shipping charges incurred to ship your order to you
DO YOU PERFORM INSTALLATIONS?
We install in Wisconsin and have contractors in several states that we trust and hire if you need someone to install for you.
DOES ALUMINUM WORK AS WELL AS COPPER?
Yes, providing you are using UL, LPI, NFPA780 Lightning Approved materials. You can’t go to the home building center and just buy some copper wire and expect it to take millions of volts. There are minimum guidelines for connections, rod size, base thickness, cable configuration. Copper is a better conductor than aluminum but the Aluminum components are made larger than the copper material therefore making up for aluminum’s lesser conductivity.
CAN I HIRE AN ELECTRICIAN TO INSTALL MY SYSTEM?
You can but surprisingly, most electricians know little about actual lightning protection because lightning is very different from regular man made produced electricity.
IF I HAVE A FLAT OR METAL ROOF SHOULD I USE NAILS OR SCREWS.
Commercial roofs should not have penetrations. Use adhesive sealant and our special adhesive cable clip holders and bases. We have adhesive equipment specifically made for that purpose. Adhesive materials can be used on any structure even asphalt roofs and pitched (ridge roofs). On standard homes, the stainless steel screws we sell usually do not penetrate far enough into the shingles and decking to cause any leaks or problems. If you are unsure, you may always use some type of high quality sealant.
METAL ROOFS, WHAT MATERIALS SHOULD I USE?
Copper cannot be used on any aluminum or galvanized roof and shouldn’t be used on any metal roof except for a copper roof because it will stain and corrode aluminum and galvanized steel. Tinned copper cable can be used in most circumstances. When using aluminum you must still transition over to copper above grade with a Bi-metal connector (part number M3).
DO GLASS OR CERAMIC BALLS ON LIGHTNING RODS SERVE A PURPOSE?
Many years ago glass balls were introduced to lightning rods as a decoration. They play no role in the rods function. Some people add them to lightning rods for fancy roof ornamentation. And no, the balls do not break when the rod is struck by Lightning. It’s possible for them to break but the myth that broken balls were the sign of a lightning strike is just that, a myth.
WHY CAN’T I USE CHEAPER WIRE FROM THE STORE FOR MY SYSTEM?
Lightning conductor cable must be braided and ordinary electrical equipment is not designed to handle the millions of volts of power that lightning produces. If you are going to install lightning rods, DO IT RIGHT and use the right cable and parts and use the braided cable that is designed especially for Lightning Protection, it actually has a purpose and is designed in a manner specifically to take a lightning strike. Also, cable must be bare. You cannot have coated cable or paint your cable. If you must paint it, use a non alkaline base paint and only paint lightly.
DON’T I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE CABLE GETTING HOT AND STARTING A FIRE, ESPECIALLY IF IT IS A CONCEALED SYSTEM?
The specially braided or woven cable does not get hot from Lightning if it has at least 28 strands with each strand being at least 17 gauge. A correctly grounded braided cable of adequate size provides a low resistance path to ground. When there is no resistance, then there is no heat. Lightning travels on the surface of each strand essentially shorting itself out along the way and neutralizing the charge. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that you can install Lightning Protection Equipment on or through wood and most other building materials. Never use cable or wire that is designed for regular electrical power no matter how big it is. Lightning Cable must have at least 59,450 circular mils of conductivity.
DO LIGHTNING RODS ATTRACT LIGHTNING AND AM I ASKING FOR TROUBLE?
No, all lightning rods do is take the lightning charge safely to ground IF they were to get struck. Having them on your roof is no different that having a weather vane or any other metal object up there. Lightning rods just supply the easiest path to ground safely. Your house makes for a much better lightning conductor with all the electrical wiring in it than just a weathervane on it or any other metal object. That is why it is more important today to have a lightning protection system in place compared to years ago.
AM I SAFE IF I HAVE TALL TREES AROUND MY HOUSE?
Trees make poor conductors, that’s why they get so damaged when they get struck. The water pipes and electric wires that are in your house make better conductors and lightning and side flash is more likely to hit your house from a tree instead. A tree offers no lightning protection at all.
DOESN’T LIGHTNING STRIKE THE TALLEST OBJECTS AROUND?
Lightning can strike anywhere, it has no mind or preference. Your home which contains metal and electrical wiring is usually a much better target for lightning than the higher terrain and tree’s. Lightning will strike a barren field just as easily as your house or a tree.
DO LIGHTNING RODS REALLY WORK?
They are over 99% effective in keeping structures safe. Lightning Rods are installed on a lot of government buildings and headquarters, The White House, countless of other commercial buildings and houses around the world, and in some countries, they are required. Smoke stacks from power plants have them and some take over 100 hits per season without any damage. They have counters on them to let them know how many strikes they sustained.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SURGE ARRESTERS AND LIGHTNING RODS?
Surge arresters are needed for TV’s and appliances. While lightning rods protect against a direct lightning strike to the structure. Damage inside the house is sometimes due from lightning entering through the power lines or TV, or phone wires. A power pole can get struck (even mile’s away) and the current will follow the wires into the house and destroy electrical equipment. This is where you need the breaker panel arrester #TC. That is why you also need to install SURGE ARRESTERS to the electrical wires entering the structure for a non-direct strike.
ISN’T THE GROUND ROD TO MY ELECTRICAL SERVICE SUFFICIENT TO PROTECT FROM LIGHTNING?
No, that is simply a common ground for your electrical service panel. It does not help for lightning.
Terms or Essential Rules to know:
A device of Copper or Aluminum that is a receptor or contact point that either draws to itself a lightning charge or flash to be carried along the conductor path to a grounding device.
Simply means acceptable to the ruling authority of any given jurisdiction.
Conductor Cable or “Cable”
Generally a copper or aluminum conductor formed out of an acceptable number of wires stranded and or woven together which carries the lightning or flash to the ground.
The conductor cable which is intended to carry lightning currents from the strike point (air terminal) safely to the ground rods and ground.
Ground or Grounded
To be connected to earth or to a conductive entity that is connected to the earth itself. Ground rods must be at least 1/2 inch diameter and 8 feet long, copper clad steel or solid copper. They are to be free of paint or any other covering and must be buried 10 feet deep, regardless if you use a longer length of a ground rod, you have to bury it two feet deeper than the length of it so the top of any length ground rod will be buried 2 feet below grade. Do this by digging a 2 foot deep hole to start with. In an area where depth becomes a problem, you may use ground plates. They also get buried at least 2 feet below grade. Every structure needs to have at least 2 ground rods or plates and should be placed as far apart from one another as possible and diagonally from each other if possible.
Lightning Protection System
This is the complete system starting with the lightning strike point (air terminals) or strike determination including the earth, conductor cable, connections, surge arrester equipment for electrical, phone, cable, and the use of fittings/connectors and ground terminals (rods or plates).
Surge Arresters or Protectors
A device which takes the high surge and voltage of electricity or lightning strike and renders it harmless by discharging it. Lightning can strike blocks, even miles away and travel through the public electrical system, phone system, cable TV. These surge arresters can stop the damage that can happen. No structure is completely safe from lightning if there is not a #TC (Whole House Arrester) installed on the electrical service for non-structure lightning hits.
Zone of Protection
The area around and within a specific distance of a lightning protection system that is safe from direct lightning strikes. In simpler terms, there is an area around a lightning rod that is protected from lightning strikes because the lightning is drawn away from it and drawn to the lightning rod itself so it may safely carry the lightning strike away and to the ground. This is why you need 1 air terminal at each “point” and why they must not be spaced any further away from each other than 20 feet. Each terminal has a zone of protection and together in the system will cover a radius around your house or structure.
For all general purposes, copper shall not come into contact with aluminum or other metals where they will be able to corrode, especially in a damp or wet area. This same rule applies to aluminum. If using an aluminum system, you will need to convert the aluminum conductor cable to copper cable about 12 to 16 inches above grade by using a Bimetal connector before you connect to your ground rod(s) or plate(s). You may protect them from moisture by using a rubber hose, length of garden hose or PVC pipe. Place the cable and connection points inside this sheath to protect the small area.
Aluminum materials cannot be used for trees. They also shall not come into direct contact of the earth. Aluminum equipment shall not be installed on copper roofing or flashing. Aluminum cable shall not be attached or connected to any surface that has an alkaline-base paint. Also, aluminum shall not be laid and buried in wet concrete or installed somewhere where there is a lot of moisture. You cannot paint any component whether copper or aluminum. If you must paint the cable, a light coat of non-alkaline base paint may be used but it is strongly advised against painting.
Placement of air terminals
Placement of the air terminals on ridge roofs or pitched roofs shall be at or within 24 inches of the ridge ends. If you are doing a flat or gently sloping roof line, the air terminals shall be placed at edges or outside corners and not exceeding a space of 20 feet from one another. If you are using air terminals of 24 inches tall or more above the area to be protected, you may place those rods no further than 25 feet apart.
On roof lines with dormers as high or higher than the main roof line itself shall have as many air terminals as described and used in any other circumstance. If the dormers are below the main ridge line they will only need protection in the areas that fall outside the zone of protection. Generally dormers are short enough to only require one lightning rod each.
Surge Suppression and Equipment
Surge equipment is a required part of a lightning protection system. It’s cheap insurance. The devices that are available are the #TC (Whole House Breaker Panel Arrester), #SE1K (for coax TV cable), and the #DTK1P for the phone lines. Remember, lightning can come in through these items from blocks or miles down the road and enter the house through the ground rod and your electrical service panel. The electrical service ground rod that you have isn’t for lightning.
Using other metals parts of your structure.
Such metal parts of a building such as rain gutters, eave troughs, chutes, etc. shall not be used in place of the main lightning rod or conductor cable. Any metal that is less than 3/16 inch thick shall be protected and not used as a conductor. You must still bond to this metal to prevent side flash if these metal objects are within 6 feet of the main conductor cable.
Direction of Conductor Cable or Path
The conductor cable must run horizontally or downward from any air terminal and not be formed into a “V” or “U” pocket. These sometimes can occur in areas such as dormers or chimneys. You must put a down conductor at the base of that particular pocket to make it up to code and function effectively. No conductor shall be bent in which it forms less than a 90 degree angle known as an included angle and if it bends, the radius must be at least 8 inches. All conductor cable shall be securely fastened to the structure by some means of a clip or clamp and spaced no further than every 3 feet. Part #83, A83 or AB or AAB is what those are used for.
Splices and Connections
When having to use a cable splice known as an “end to end” or “straight” or “tee”, or “twin”, there are two types available. They are the crimp fitting or bolt tension. We suggest the bolt tension when at all possible because all connections must be able to withstand a pull test of 200 pounds. It is difficult to achieve that with the crimp style.
Concealed or New Construction Systems
A complete concealed system is available and is run the same way as the conventional outside method. Some people have a fear of the cable getting hot from the lightning strike and are afraid to attach the cable to the 2 x 4’s or other beams inside the house. The cable does not get hot when struck by lightning providing you are using lightning approved conductor cable like we sell. The reason the cable does not get hot is because there is no resistance if using proper cable and with no resistance, you have no heat.