In Florida, lightning is a fact of life. In the summers, we typically get daily showers occasionally with thunderstorms. These produce intense lighting, which often hits the ground, or a tree or a house. When this does happen, installers will occasionally get calls from clients with some problems due to a lighting strike.

We are not talking about a power outage or brown-outs, but lightning strikes or large spikes in power due to electrical storms. These are often due to lightning bouncing off an object an onto the house, which then follows various paths until it finds a suitable ground. The main spikes and surges that come in from the power company or main electrical lines should be protected by the whole house surge suppressor, also the main phone and cable feeds to the home should also be protected.

When I used to build PCs, in the early 80’s, we often found the most common cause of failures from electrical surges or lightning strikes was from the phone line through the modem. At that time, surge suppressors were popular and some had phone line protectors, but most people didn’t use that part of the protection, to their PC’s demise.

It is similar with a home control system and all of the wiring that goes throughout the house, but worse. With a house, I have seen lighting that struck a tree, bounced from there to eave metal around the roofline of the house, then work it’s way around to a bathroom, into the plumbing, blowing a light fixture clear off of the wall, the oxide off of the back of the mirror facing the outside wall, and fused several phone lines. There is just no reasonable method of protecting everything, including the wiring, from this type of damage.

Some of the more common systems to be affected are phones, lighting and solid state controlled video devices. Most often it is phones and telephone system equipment or wiring. Many times lightning or electrical surges cause electronic equipment lock-out or total failure. Sometimes we have seen quick fixes in these situations … mostly hard-resets for equipment. Simply unplugging or de-powering many devices for a short period of time, and then re-powering them will often “reset” the units, often putting them back in working order.

For some difficult units, removing power for a day or more has sometimes caused a reset, thus fixing the problem. Other components may have a hardware reset button or even a built in fuse or fused reset button. These are often located in difficult to find locations, so be diligent in finding them. Still other products, such as DSS receivers, have various “reboot” sequences, that offer a hard system reboot by simultaneously pressing 2 or more buttons at the same time. Be careful in trying this without knowing the correct sequence though, as manufacturers also use these to test and put things into different modes and you may do something you wish you hadn’t. Many manufacturers websites have this information or it can be found elsewhere on the internet.

The best way to protect the home is to protect the main inputs to the wiring distribution center for each incoming feed, i.e. cable TV, satellite, each phone line, and the electrical system for the entire home, by tying them to a true ground and/or through a surge protection system. Many manufacturers such as Leviton, Square D, and others sell components and even kits that protect all of these sub-systems.

Next, by all means, protect or even upgrade to buying an uninterruptible power supply for the main control systems. Finally, provide local protection for all PCs, network equipment, media centers, TVs, etc. via a 6 or more outlet surge suppressor. Most come with some sort of warranty to cover items damaged when protected by them.

Also, be sure to protect your equipment from damage to any cables coming into it. Many components today have several cables coming into them. A satellite receiver uses a cable from the satellite dish, one from the cable company and a phone line. All three should go through a surge protector between the wall and the receiver for complete protection. If this is all done properly, your chances of losing equipment are about as minimal as one can attain.

If wires are fused or otherwise damaged, there is usually little one can do, as the damage is often difficult or impossible to locate or is located in an unreachable location. Using a backup pair, if Cat5 for instance, or running a new wire are often the only viable options. This is usually the extreme case. In most cases, homeowners insurance will cover the cost of repairs and electronics damaged by lighting or other electrical damage, but this can also be a real hassle, so the best thing is to protect you and your client’s initial investment of money and time.

Daniel E. Fulmer is president and founder of FulTech Solutions, a full service systems integration firm in Jacksonville, Fla., and the College of Smart, a dealer training and licensing facility. He can be reached at . Website: and .