How to Protect Your Industrial Electronic Equipment From Lightning

lighning damageUnless you are living in a cave, you’ve probably noticed more than a few damaging storms this summer.  Lightning and electronics do not mix well together.

Here are the heart-stopping facts that put your electronic gear in danger:

  • 100 lightning flashes strike earth every second
  • At any given time, approximately 2000 thunderstorms are in progress around the world
  • Lighting can produce currents as high as 500 kA and voltage up to 30,000 kV

This kind of power can easily damage or destroy any industrial or commercial electronic equipment.

Your outside equipment such as your HVAC, fire alarms, perimeter security, remote pumps and controls, even your parking lot lights may already be cowering in fear from the coming electrical storms.

Lightning strikes can even cause damage through power surges called “transients” which happen when lightning strikes nearby hitting transmitting devices such as metallic plant equipment, pipes, or wiring.  Even the magnetic field associated with lighting can cause damage to computers nearby that might not show up until days or weeks later.

Damage to electrical and electronic equipment can include flashover of insulation inside motors or transformers, vaporized traces on printed circuit boards, vaporized transistors and integrated circuits, blown fuses, and more.  None of it good.

The cost of lightning damage is downtime, reduced production, and electronic equipment repair costs.  There are some things you can do to help minimize lightning damage:

  • Diversion:  ground metallic structures
  • Attenuation:  careful wiring such as metallic raceways, cable shields, twisted pairs, extensive grounding and earthing
  • Suppression:  up-to-date suppression devices installed at each point closes to the equipment to be protected or where the conductor enters and leaves a structure

Your power distribution systems must be capable of withstanding repeat lightning-induced peak surge currents.   This is not a DIY project.  Make sure you get a qualified electrician for this job.

Know this too:  when you install surge protection devices around your plant, realize that damage has already occurred to circuit boards, processors, wiring, and connections prior to the installation so some losses may continue for a time.

Even after all that, sometimes, your electronic equipment will still suffer damage.  If that’s the case, get a qualified, experienced industrial electronic repair company to evaluate your item to see if it is repairable or “smoked”.

The best repair companies will provide this evaluation at no cost and give you an accurate quote for repairs.  They should also be able to provide rush repair services and offer a minimum of a one year warranty on most repairs.  Some repair companies are even offering two year warranties on their parts and labor.  If your item is “smoked” the company should be able to dispose of the electronics properly.

Keep you equipment safe this summer and most importantly, keep yourself safe.  There are no surge protection devices for humans!