Lightning Protection Systems

If you’re looking for a Lightning Protection System (LPS) to provide protection for home or building Custom Cupola and Steeple Co. Ltd. offers LPS and is certified under the Fire Marshal’s Office of Ontario since 1994. We have experience and certified installers that have installed LPS on various steeples, domes, ICI sector buildings, residential homes and cottages. We are agents of Dominion Lightning Rod Co a 110 year old plus family owned business and the only Canadian Manufacturer of Lightning Protection System products. Our relationship with Dominion Lightning Rod Co allows us to offer our clients a complete solution in the procurement of LPS systems.

LighningVert.jpgLPS consists of lightning rods (air terminals), conductors, and grounding. The lightning rods are positioned at strategic locations where lightning is most likely to strike such as roof peaks/ ridges, dormers, chimneys, cupolas, etc. High surface area, braided cable conductors interconnect the lightning rods and provide a path for the lightning to reach ground. The grounding system dissipates the lightning energy safely into the earth.

How it Works
A lightning strike consists of opposite charges of electrical energy. A negative charge or build-up occurs in the bottom part of the cloud closest to earth and a positive charge of energy occurs directly underneath in the ground. Separating these two opposite charges is the non-conducting dry air belt separating cloud and earth. As the two opposite charges continue to build up and the dry air belt becomes moist, lightning starts down toward earth in 150 foot jagged steps or intervals. The positive ground charge is attracted upward, utilizing the lightning protection system on the building as an outlet.

As the negative leader stroke from the cloud continues toward earth, the positive ground charge travels up through the Lightning Rod System and when the negative leader stroke is about 150 feet above the top of the protected building, the positive ground charge starts upward to meet and neutralize the downward leader stroke. The two opposite charges are neutralized emptying the negative charges from the cloud and dissipating into the ground. This all occurs in about one five thousandths of a second.

The discharge has been completed and the negative cloud charge and the positive ground charge becomes zero.
LPS is an important consideration for any building. Please read the following FAQ’s (Frequently asked questions) for further education on LPS.

LPS Certification

For a Lightning Protection System to be certified it must be inspected pursuant to the Lightning Rods Act by the Fire Marshal’s Office of Ontario. Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd has been licensed by Dominion Lightning Rods through the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office to provide installation services.

We have been installing LPS on our steeples, turrets and domes for over a quarter century and now offer this service to protect houses, barns, high rises, towers and businesses that want to protect their investments from the power of nature.

Once your LPS system is installed the Fire Marshal is sent a LPS plan and will come to your building to provide an inspection of the installation. We warranty all of our systems to ensure compliance with the Lightning Rods Act.

LPS Design and Engineering

A Lightning Protection System is intended to harness the power of a lightning bolt. This is one of the most powerful forces in nature and can be a destructive force if allowed to find its way to ground through your building.

The engineering of an LPS is much more involved than just finding the highest point of a building, many other considerations come into play, especially with the technological advanced buildings that we have today. Other metal structures, mechanical units, towers and chimneys all must be protected. The design of the system is not within the realm of most Electrical Engineers, special training and understanding of lightning is required. We have the expertise to protect your building.

The LPS layout schematic is forwarded to the Fire Marshal’s Office as part of the certification process.

LPS Installation

We offer complete installation services throughout Ontario. Our team is highly capable of accessing the most remote locations through our Remote Rope Access capabilities. We can offer you certified installation of your system.

FAQ’s (Frequently asked questions)

Q1 – What’s a Lightning Protection System (LPS) and how does it work?
Q2 – Why do I need lightning protection?
Q3 – What about my cottage?
Q4 – Does my TV antenna act like a lightning rod to protect my home?
Q5 – How often does lightning strike?
Q6 – Does my insurance cover lightning damage?
Q7 – If my insurance will cover some lightning damage, why should I consider an LPS?
Q8 – How much does a lightning protection system cost for a home?
Q9 – Is it true that lightning never strikes twice in the same place?
Q10 – Are there Codes, Standards and Laws for lightning protection systems?
Q11 – What makes one building more susceptible to a lightning strike than another?
Q12 – What do lightning protection systems look like installed on a home?
Q13 – Is there a guarantee with a system?
Q14 – Is there any maintenance of the LPS?
Q15 – How would I go about finding someone qualified to put lightning protection on my home?
Q16 – Can I purchase the materials and install the system myself or with the help of an unlicensed person?
Q17 – What if lightning hits an overhead power line and comes into our home indirectly?
Q18 – Why Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd?

Q1 – What’s a Lightning Protection System (LPS) and how does it work?
Lightning protection systems consist of lightning rods, conductors, and grounding. The lightning rods are positioned at strategic locations where lightning is most likely to strike such as roof peaks/ridges, dormers, chimneys, cupolas, etc. High surface area, braided bare conductors interconnect the lightning rods and provide a path for the lightning to reach ground. The grounding system dissipates the lightning energy safely into the earth.

The LPS works by discharging static electricity in the air during electrical activity in the atmosphere. This lessens the chances of a high power lightning strike. However, if the storm is severe enough to create a direct strike, a properly installed LPS will intercept the strike and conduct it safely to ground. The system acts as an external shield to provide the path of least resistance to ground for any lightning or atmospheric electrical activity.

Q2 – Why do I need lightning protection?
To prevent the damage that a lightning strike can cause: electronic products are among the most common items we purchase in our homes. Aside from the obvious items such as audio/visual equipment, computers, security systems, etc., devices that we don’t think of as being electronic are adopting electronic elements, such as heating/air conditioning systems, refrigerators, timers, telephones, garage door openers, and a host of new products we will be using in the future. These products are vulnerable to even mild power surges, let alone a direct strike. Even when power is switched off, lightning can arc through the switch. Without an LPS, the home’s electrical system provides the best path for lightning to reach ground.

Electrical wires in homes are designed to carry voltages and current (l15 volts and usually 15 amps) to supply the connected electrical and electronic appliances. The wiring is not designed to carry the voltages and current of lightning (millions of volts and thousands of amps). The wires or insulation can melt and re-solidify in a non-uniform manner, or the insulation could have been perforated by the effects of lightning arcing. This type of damage is extremely difficult to detect and is cumulative and the consequence may be that there is an increased chance of an electrical fire starting in the future and lightning may never be suspected as the cause.

Fires can be caused by lightning. Even a localized fire in the attic that is caught early can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage due to the water the fire fighters use to extinguish the fire.

Even if the fire is minor, the musty, smoky smell that lingers for years in carpets, furniture, and drapes can ruin them. When lightning strikes a fireplace chimney or vent, lightning energy can start a fire in the living space of a home. Lightning can cause delayed action fires that can go undetected for a long time after the actual lightning strike.

Breaches and explosions can be caused by powerful lightning strikes. The property damage caused by this type of strike takes the form of holes in roofs, pulverized chimneys, and structural damage. Lightning that is powerful enough to cause explosions can also claim life.

Q3 – What about my cottage?
Your cottage is susceptible to the same kind of lightning damage that your home is. Add to this some additional considerations: many cottages are in rocky terrain with poor natural grounding. This means that if you have electricity telephone, etc. in your cottage, the wiring system will be by far the best path to ground for lightning. It will be even more likely that appliance and wiring damage occur. Tall trees can attract lightning and the shallow roots of trees in rocky terrain can channel the lightning to the cottage electrical system. Side flashes from the trees can cross to the cottage.

Cottages are unoccupied for long periods of time. Lightning-caused damage can go undetected for quite a while. In particular, a small lightning-caused fire that could easily be put out in an urban setting may cause the whole cottage to bum down because nobody was there to stop it. Usually, cottages have even more wood construction than houses. This makes fire damage even more likely.

Q4 – Does my TV antenna act like a lightning rod to protect my home?
No, the exact opposite! A TV antenna or other mast that protrudes significantly above the home increases the chances of attracting a lightning strike, much like a church steeple. These towers are rarely grounded to the standards of the Lightning Protection Code. Also, the antenna/satellite cable, provides a direct path for lightning to enter a home directly into the sensitive electronic products (VCR/receiver/TV). Part of any professionally installed code standard LPS includes the proper grounding of the antenna mast.

Grounding kits for satellite dishes/antennae are available from Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd. The kit includes proper grounding clamps/cable for the mast as well as a surge protection unit for the antenna cable.

Q5 – How often does lightning strike?
The average incidence of thunderstorm activity is 30-35 thunderstorm days per year in Ontario. Some areas hav e a much higher incidence of thunderstorm activity. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources data shows that in an average thunderstorm there are 56,000 direct lightning hits to ground. This means that in an area the size of London, the average storm will result in 1200 direct lightning strikes. Ten to 15 strikes could be expected in a square mile.

Q6 – Does my insurance cover lightning damage?
Yes and No. Yes. Household insurance will generally cover major lightning damage, such as explosions, breaches, and fires caused by a direct strike, depending on your policy. If you are in any doubt, check with your insurance company.
No, it doesn’t cover all damage. Most policies have a deductible and if the damage is less than your deductible, you must pay for it. A lot of insurance policies have a deductible of $500 or more. If a lightning strike damages your VCR, chances are a replacement unit will be less than your deductible, and you will have to cover it yourself. Also, some damage, such as damage to wiring, is difficult to attribute directly to a lightning strike and is therefore not covered. It’s up to the home owner to prove that damage or degradation occurred to the wiring. If your home has been struck in the past and the insurance company has already covered significant claims, your premiums may go up.

Q7 – If my insurance will cover some lightning damage, why should I consider an LPS?
An LPS is a truly proactive measure; it prevents the problem from happening rather than dealing with the damage after it has occurred. Damage like: irreplaceable family heirlooms may be lost forever.

The months of hassle and expense of repairs or replacement of property. Although insurance may cover the major cost of a claim due to lightning, your lifestyle is disrupted and, if your time is important to you, it is wise to avoid the problem.

The degradation to electrical wiring that may go undetected/unproven. The low cost of protection which is less than $IOO/year over a 15-20 year period. Some insurance companies offer premium discounts on farm buildings equipped with lightning protection.

Q8 – How much does a lightning protection system cost for a home?
In most cases the cost for a fully supplied, installed, certified, and government inspected system is around $1.00 per square foot of above-grade living space. For example, an LPS for an average-sized home would be about $1500. This is a one-time cost. The LPS will probably never need to be changed (see QI4). If you stay in the home for 20 years, the cost averages less than $100 per year.

The cost depends on the following variables:
Least Expensive: straight roof lines, good working conditions, few chimneys, few dormers/cupolas, gradual slope/low roof, clay loam/sand ground, asphalt/cedar shingles.

Most Expensive: complex roof shape, bad conditions, winter, many chimneys, many dormers, steep, high roof, bedrock near surface, clay tiles, slate or metal roofing.

To accurately estimate the cost to protect your home we would require drawings and a picture that shows all 4 sides of the building and roof areas.

Q9 – Is it true that lightning never strikes twice in the same place? 
No. This is not only untrue, but ironically it’s the exact opposite. All you have to do is watch the CN Tower during a thunderstorm. Observers have seen the tower hit 20 times during one storm alone!

Q10 – Are there Codes, Standards and Laws for lightning protection systems?
Yes. There are authorities having jurisdiction in both Canada (Canadian Standards Association – CSA) and the U.S. (National Fire Protection Association – NFPA). These authorities publish the codes and standards that define today’s LPS. In Ontario, the Ontario Lightning Rods Act governs the manufacture and installation of LPS. The installer must, by law, be licensed by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office. Ask to see your installer’s license or call the Fire Marshal’s office for confirmation of licensed installers.

As well, the LPS industry has taken measures to assure that the consumer is fully protected. Upon the completion of an installation, the installer must send a certificate to the owner and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office (OFM). Subsequently, an inspector from the OFM is sent out to do an inspection and a report is issued to the customer and agent. Any problems will be remedied immediately by the agent. This is the best consumer protection offered anywhere in North America for the installation of LPS.

Q11 – What makes one building more susceptible to a lightning strike than another?
The following factors determine the relative risk:
Relative height: If your home is the highest in the vicinity, it becomes the best target for lightning. Good targets include buildings on hills and shorelines, isolated buildings on flat land, and protruding structures such as communication towers, steeples, aerials, and tall trees.
Building size: The larger the building, the greater the risk.

Q12 – What do lightning protection systems look like installed on a home?
Today’s lightning protection systems are not as conspicuous as they used to be. Installed by professionals, they are remarkably unobtrusive. Rods extend 1 foot above the roof and are 5/8″ diameter. Cable is either braided copper or aluminum (1/2″ diameter) and is installed considering the roof sight lines and architecture. Where cables come down to ground, they are hidden as much as possible by corners, eaves trough, and downspouts.
If you prefer, the older style “barn rods” are still available up to 30″ high.

Q13 – Is there a guarantee with a system?
Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd and its agents will guarantee the materials and workmanship for one year. The materials are designed to last as long as the building itself, so any problems should present themselves before the end of the warranty period.

Any recommended changes or modifications to the LPS as directed by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office are rectified once the inspection occurs by this agency even if that inspection takes place outside of the warranty period.

Q14 – Is there any maintenance of the LPS?
Very little if any. A certified LPS should last as long as the building itself. The system is designed to withstand numerous lightning strikes without degradation. It should also withstand any weather conditions the roof itself could withstand. We recommend that the system be visually inspected every 5 years, to assure rods and cables are fastened tightly to the roof and walls. If you have had any repairs or modifications done to the exterior that may have affected the system such as re-roofing, the LPS should be re- inspected and re-certified by a licensed LPS agent. Since you have paid for the system, it’s a good idea to ensure that it is still effective.

Q15 – How would I go about finding someone qualified to put lightning protection on my home?

Can we obtain a free estimate? Yes. Do the estimators or installers need to get into our home? Usually not. Access to the inside of the home by either the installers or the Fire Marshal’s inspector is usually not required. We do require access all around the outside of the home. The owners do not have to be present for the installation unless they wish to be.

Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd employs qualified, experienced installation personnel based in Oakville, Ontario. As agents of Dominion Lightning Rod Co it means that our customers have the assurance of our company’s integrity and experience as well as that of the manufacturer who has been carrying on this line of work as their sole business for over 100 years. If the job does not fall within our installation area, we would be happy to arrange one of our affiliates.

Q16 – Can I purchase the materials and install the system myself or with the help of an unlicensed person?
Yes. The Ontario Lightning Rods Act allows a manufacturer to sell materials directly to the legal owners of the property. We are not, however, permitted to sell materials to unlicensed contractors for resale. Also, we are not in any way held responsible for the consequences of the use of the material by unlicensed installers.

For people wanting to do-it-themselves, the cost is about 50% of a complete installation by a licensed contractor; however. the Fire Marshal will not inspect the system unless certified by a licensed agent. For this reason, we offer an inspection and certification service, and also installation tips.

Q17 – What if lightning hits an overhead power line and comes into our home indirectly?
To protect your electrical/communication systems from damage, we recommend our industrial quality surge protection unit that can handle the voltages and current produced by lightning (20,000 amps, millions of volts). Power bars and surge protection units available through retail stores are not designed to protect your equipment from the power of lightning.

Q18 – Why Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd?
Custom Cupola has been providing LPS since 1994. We maintain an excellent reputation among professionals in the industry, consulting engineers, and with our regulatory authority (The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office). Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd is a certified agent of Dominion Lightning Rod Co. We have leveraged a strong relationship with Dominion Lightning Rod Co and are capable of providing solutions to the Residential, Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional sectors: homes, cottages, farms, churches, barns, telecommunications systems, Bell and cellular antenna installations, major financial centers including bank towers, data processing facilities, insurance companies, and office towers in all major cities, oil and gas distribution centers, arenas, museums, art galleries, golf clubs, oil and gas manufacturing facilities, industrial complexes.

We began this division of Custom Cupola and Steeple Co Ltd by providing LPS to many of our Steeple, Dome and Cupola installations. These structures required protection and while we are completing the project, it makes it more cost effective for the client to install the LPS.

Custom Cupola installs lightening protection systems in the Ontario market including Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, St. Catharines and beyond.