Does A Surge Protector or a UPS Protect Against Lightning?
In order to protect electronics and other devices from power surges, many people use power surges and Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) to connect devices to wall power sockets.
But, while such units may very well protect the electronic devices from internal and even external power surges, people want to know if surge protectors and UPSs can protect the devices from lightning strikes.
Published: June 9, 2022.
Surge Protector vs. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
When people mention surge protector, in most cases they think of a device that is plugged into the wall power socket and used to protect one or more sensitive devices from power surges.
Such point-of-use surge protectors feature an electronic sensor that detects the power surges and an additional component that redirects the excess electric energy to the ground wire - hence the energy (given in Joules (J)) that the surge protector can redirect successfully is often one of the more important features of any surge protector.
Since the damage from power surges accumulates over time, it is recommended to replace surge protectors every few years.
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is basically a point-of-use surge protector that also comes with a built-in battery which is used to power connected devices when there is no AC power present.
Surge Protectors vs. Power Strips
Power strips and surge protectors may look very similar, but while power strips enable the user to connect several devices to one wall power outlet (they simply redistribute AC power from one wall power outlet to several power outlets), power protectors also monitor line voltage and if required, they prevent power surges from "traveling" down the wall power outlet to the connected devices.
So, do point-of-use surge protectors and UPSs protect the devices from lightning?
The answer is simple - no, they don't. Each lightning carries so much energy and it is so fast that point-of-use surge protectors and UPS devices do NOT protect connected devices from the lightning.
Do Whole-House Surge Protectors Protect Against Lightning?
Well, generally, yes they do, but there is no 100% sure defense against the lightning strike.
The defense against the lightning strike starts with a properly grounded properly installed lightning rod.
Note: we use the word "properly" very often here because if the lightning rod is not installed properly and it is not grounded properly then it gives a false sense of security ... until the first lightning strike ...
Whole-house surge protectors are devices that are placed between the power meter and the power lines, while the other unit is placed between the power meter and the breaker box - most whole-house surge protectors intended for protection against lightning are single devices which internally combine both types of surge protectors.
Note: If You live in a home that doesn't feature a whole-house surge protector, it is highly recommended to contact a local certified electrician company that can check your current electric installation (especially grounding) and can advise You regarding further steps on installing the whole-house surge protector.
Multi-Level Surge Protection
In order to increase the chances of your devices surviving the lightning strike, multi-level surge protection is the key.
Such multi-level surge protection includes a grounded lightning rod, a whole-house surge protector (two separate units that are placed between the power meter and the power lines and between the power meter and the breaker box, or one unit that features both sub-systems), and point-of-use surge protectors/UPSs.
Such multi-level surge protection has the best chance of protecting the devices connected to the mains power during a lightning storm ...
Note: note all surge protectors are suitable for multi-level surge protection...
100% Successful Protection Against the Lightning
Believe it or not, there is a very simple, 100% successful protection against lightning, despite the lightning traveling at enormous speeds and carrying enormous amounts of energy.
100% successful protection against lightning is simple - unplug your devices from power, telecommunication, and other landlines during a lightning storm.
And when we say unplug them, that means that You should unplug the power cord from the wall power outlet and move it away from the wall power outlet, just in case. Call me paranoid, but excess electricity at huge voltages can jump from wire to wire easily...
Few Final Words
As one can see, protection against lightning is possible, but having a usable/powered system that is 100% protected against lightning is an almost impossible task.
To be as safe as realistically possible, one must have a grounded lightning rod, a whole-house surge protector and if possible, point-of-use smaller surge protectors.
Such systems offer very good protection against lightning and practically 100% protection against much more common downed power lines power surges and similar events.