Protecting your home from lightning fires

Multiple lightning fires this week have many of you writing us - asking what can be done to prevent them?

AUSTIN - Lightning storms across Central Texas keep proving just how quickly they can cause massive damage to a home. 

According to the Austin Fire Department, two attic fires in Northwest Austin last week were caused by lightning.

While both fires were extinguished rapidly, one home suffered more than $5,000 in damage; the other had more than $40,000. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Texas ranks second for the number of lightning damage claims and in 2016. The average cost per claim was $9,580.

After initial stories on the fires, multiple viewers wrote to KVUE asking for information about lightning rods. One woman asked, "I'd like to know if there's anything I can install or do to keep my home safe?"

The good news: yes. The bad: it may be a bit expensive.

Lightning rods have been installed to stop lightning damage for more than 250 years and as Marty Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Lightning Rods can attest, they've gotten very good.

"They're over 99 percent effective," he said. 

Hamilton is the third generation of his family to install lightning rods. He and his sons, the fourth generation, were out Wednesday putting one on a home in Round Rock.

"Unfortunately, it's kind of like having a home burglarized," Hamilton said. "People don't think about it until after it happens."

He estimated that they install roughly one system per day and said they often do so to already damaged homes or for neighbors of lightning strike victims.

"They can be extremely damaging," he said. "Thousands to tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to electrical appliances, wires and more.That's not even taking possible fires into account."

A system like the one installed Wednesday consists of multiple "lightning rods," or small copper rods that are affixed to the roof of a home. The rods are connected with copper wiring that is then attached to copper rods buried in the ground.

"Lightning is looking for the path of least resistance," Hamilton said. "We're providing a highway for it to dissipate into the ground."

The installation takes less than a day and the bright, metallic copper is designed to change color to match the shingles within about a month. 

So why don't all homes have these systems? Well, the answer comes down to the cost.

Hamilton said an average system could cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 to install, a figure he acknowledged is high.

But, he said that the value is worth it. The systems are guaranteed for life and require no maintenance. It's a one time cost that could potentially save you thousands more if struck.

The homeowner of the house they were working on Wednesday didn't want to be named, but said he decided to add lightning protection after seeing the coverage of nearby fires. 

"I believe the house is the most important investment in life," he said. "It gives me a peace of mind. A kind of insurance, I'd say."

For more on Hamilton Lightning Rods, check their website by clicking here.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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