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Lightning conductors: a few words of advice

08 February 2013


From the Revd Christopher Miles
Sir, - I was saddened to read of the severe lightning damage to St Odulph's, Pillaton ( News, 1 February). Churchwardens and church councils have a difficult task in balancing the finances of their churches, and some feel that they cannot afford the cost of good lightning protection.

Lightning protection is probably the oldest electrical technology, having been invented by Benjamin Franklin more than 250 years ago. For most of that time, it has been recognised that a single down conductor provides inadequate protection. A second down conductor splits the current, halves the enormous voltage built up during a lightning strike, and so reduces the risk of flashover with consequent possible fire or structural damage.

A well-protected tower may provide fairly good protection, but quite probably leave the chancel unprotected: lightning does not always strike the highest point. The risk of a direct strike is comparatively low, maybe once every 200 to 500 years, depending on the size of the church and its location.

What is perhaps ten times as frequent is a strike in the vicinity of the church or its service cables (power and telephone) powerful enough to damage electrical and electronic equipment. Well-installed surge protection can virtually eliminate such damage. It is also important to consider the lightning-protection implications of installing external electrical equipment such as mobile-phone relays, broadband relays, PV panels, sensors, cameras, lighting and their cables, to provide either sufficient separation or, if not, to bond electrically to the nearest down conductor where this can be done. Regular review and professional advice are important.

Lightning Protection Consultant for
Rochester and Canterbury dioceses
2 Spa Close, Hadlow
Tonbridge, Kent TN11 0JX

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