The national annual value of lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims in the years 2017-2019 averaged $915M (that is 915 Million USD) but more than doubled in 2020 to more than $2B (two billion USD), due to the 2020 lightning strikes in California.
According to Vaisala’s report, more than 170 million lightning events were detected nationally in 2020. This is actually a reduction from the 180 million annual average between the years 2015-2019.
Lightning is a dangerous and frequent weather hazard. It can be seen in heavy snowstorms, large hurricanes, and thunderstorms.
Lightning comes from thunderstorm clouds that are formed where there is a combination of conditions of upward air motion, convective instability, and moisture which may produce a deep cloud that reaches up to levels colder than freezing. These conditions are most often met in the warm seasons (spring, summer, and early autumn).
The highest frequency of cloud-to-ground lightning in the U.S is in Florida due to the large moisture content in the atmosphere at low levels and high surface temperatures. While Texas has the highest number of lightning events due to its size, Florida is the U.S lightning capital based on density.
The U.S western mountains also experience frequent lightning, the Gulf of Mexico coast and inland, and the southeast Atlantic coast.
Lightning Risk to Your Home
When lightning strikes, you should be safer indoors than out, hence the saying: “When thunder roars go indoors”. However, if your home is not properly protected, you are still at risk, even within your own home.
Lightning enters structures either by a direct strike, through wires/pipes that extend outside the structure, or through the ground. Once inside a structure, lightning can travel through the power, communication, and plumbing systems. Lightning can also travel through metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring. It can travel through utility transmission lines to nearby homes, and cause further damage to other homes in the neighborhood.
A direct lightning strike on a home can cause fire and explosions of flammable construction materials and can burn through wires and pipes. The shock waves from lightning strikes can fracture concrete walls, foundations, and glass. The electrical surge can travel through transmission lines, destroy your electric appliances and even damage the electricity in neighboring homes.
Insurance for Lightning Damages
Unlike other natural hazards such as floods or wildfires, there is no dedicated insurance policy for lightning. Fortunately, most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for damage caused by lightning.
Homeowners' insurance covers damage to the house structure from a direct strike, and personal property damage such as appliances and electronics, but only to the limits listed in the policy. Many insurance companies offer coverage for about 50 to 70 percent of the value of the items.
Your living expenses in case you need to temporarily move while your property is being repaired will be covered as well.
Damage from fire caused by lightning or damage from a fallen tree due to a lightning strike is also typically covered by homeowners’ insurance. However, homes that are indirectly affected by electrical or ground surges due to nearby lightning-strike, will find it more difficult to file a claim.
Luckily, there are solutions that you can apply to make sure your home is protected from lightning by installation of lightning protection.
Lightning protection system
This system is designed to protect structures from a direct lightning strike by providing a path for the harmful electrical surge to disperse safely into the ground. The system comprises several securely connected elements, generally including the following:
- Lightning rods / Air terminals: rods made of conductive materials installed on top of a structure, and intended to catch the lightning strike. For example, the lightning rods by Thompson Lightning Protection.
- Conductors: conductive braided cables that connect the lightning rods to the other system components and to the grounding system.
- Grounding: various grounding solutions that are designed to direct the current into the ground.
- Bonds: these elements interconnect all the system components and other electrical systems to eliminate the lightning from side flashing.
Lightning protection systems can also be installed on large trees that pose risk to the house due to their proximity to the structure. The Lightning Protection Institute specifies that trees taller than the structure within 10 feet of the structure should be equipped with a lightning protection system.
Surge Protection Devices (SPDs)
These devices are typically installed with Lightning Protection Systems to provide full protection from lightning damage. SPDs are installed in the electrical/service panel to prevent the entrance of an electrical surge that may ignite a fire or ruin heavy appliances. Among other manufacturers, East Coast Lightning Equipment helps consumers choose the proper surge protection.
All mentioned solutions should be installed by certified lightning protection contractors listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), listed and certified by the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI). In addition, the products’ materials should be certified by UL, LPI, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) .
Lightning is a frequent and dangerous natural hazard that poses risks of damage to unprotected structures.
Although homeowners’ insurance typically covers damage from lightning, it would only cover a certain percentage subject to the specific policy.
If your home is located in an area with a high risk for lightning, consider installing a lightning protection system and surge protection devices for the proper protection of your home. Use our tool to find the lightning risk level in your county.
It is crucial that such protection solutions will be installed by certified professionals using certified materials.