Installing a Lightning Rod
LESLIE: Barbara in Alabama, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
BARBARA: Well hey, I just love your show; I listen to it all the time. But what I want to know is how do you install a lightning rod.
TOM: Ah, a lighting rod.
BARBARA: And if you do install it how high up should it be and how far away from the house and how far down in the ground should it go? And – and (Leslie chuckles) does it draw lightning?
TOM: OK. So the first – let’s do the last question first; does it cause lightning to draw to your house and the answer would be no. What it does do is if lightning is going to strike your house it will direct it towards the metal rod. But I don’t think it increases your risk.
Secondly, how do you install it? Well, typically it’s installed at the highest point on the roof. There is a heavy cable that goes from the lightning rod down the side of the house and you have to, by the way, be very careful where the cable runs. Because you would not want to run the cable, for example, down the wall where there was electrical wiring or where there were plumbing pipes because that lightning strike could sort of rush over into the other metal parts that are in the wall, including the wiring and the plumbing, and cause someone to be shocked somewhere else down the line. So there is a science to where it’s installed.
And then once it gets down, the ground wire is connected to a ground stake which goes into the soil, usually anywhere from three to six feet into the soil, and that’s where it dissipates and that would be located within a few feet of the foundation. And that’s all there is to it.
You know, the lightning rods can actually be quite beautiful. Some of them are very, very ornate. I’ve seen them with different color glass bulbs that surround them. They really can look pretty neat on the top of a house and they do a good job just to keep lightning from damaging the home as well.
BARBARA: How many feet did you say away from the house?
TOM: Usually within a few feet of the foundation.
BARBARA: How many is a few?
BARBARA: Five feet?
BARBARA: Oh, my goodness. OK.
TOM: Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.