A Guide to Roof-Top Elements of Lightning Protection Systems

Any Lightning protection system will begin on the roof for more effective lightning safety or strike termination. It is the ideal spot to attract thunder strikes to go through the lightning protection system and keep the buildings, trees, nature, and people nearby safe. However, it needs to be mentioned that such a system will only work within a certain radius, and extensions such as HVAC units, solar collectors, etc., will require additional strike termination devices set up. But how exactly does this work? Let’s find out.

What Happens When Lightning Strikes A Structure

Lightning is an extremely high-intensity shot of electricity that happens in a very short duration. When it strikes a structure, be it a building, a home, or even a tree, high-voltage electricity travels through the structure on every conductive pathway. The voltage of electricity passed during the strike is so high that the surface often catches fire and burns too quickly.

On the other hand, when your home or building is fitted with lightning protection systems, the process is entirely different. Lightning protection always begins at the very top of a building. Lightning conductors or lightning rods are placed at a height much higher than the roof of the building, which is then connected to wires that go around the building and go all the way into the ground. The wire and the device in the ground are all made of materials that are good conductors of electricity.

The benefit of this is that, as lightning strikes the conductor at the top, the lightning protection system that is in place gives a highly facilitative and safe pathway for the electricity to travel and neutralize on the ground. This way, instead of the strike hitting the building directly and causing harm, it is conducted safely through the ground.

Risks And Safety?

Lightning strikes are highly unpredictable – Even with the technology we have today, there’s not much we can do to anticipate when or where lightning is going to strike. Consequently, we have no way to prepare or plan for it.

The best we can do today to protect ourselves and our homes from lightning is to have a lightning protection system installed by a Lightning Protection Company. Even then, we cannot guarantee it will completely protect our buildings from lightning. At the very least, it can mitigate some of the risks.

Various Elements Of A Lightning Protection System

As your Lightning Protection Company installs a system of protection for you, they will have to take care of various elements or parts. The first is the air terminal, often known as lightning conductors or lightning rods. These are essentially lightning termination devices. Other than this, we have ground terminals or earthing rods and bonding conductors. These are supported by various other connectors to complete lightning protection for a building.

Here’s what you should know:

When lightning strikes an area or a facility, it will use every available conducive pathway to travel down to the ground. Consequently, lightning protection systems are fitted around the building, and multiple pathways are made to the ground. Originally, it was assumed that the lightning rod conducts the electricity and disperses it on the ground through the earthing or ground rods. Recently, that’s to high-speed photography; we now know that the cloud component or lightning and the ground are oppositely charged and meet at a point. And when they do meet, lightning protection systems provide a safe space for both to disperse without harming the structure where they meet or strike.

Lightning Protection Testing is also necessary to ensure that your lightning protection systems are up-to-date and in working order. In the UK, Lightning Protection Testing should be performed once a year.

Roof- Top Elements Or Components Of Lightning Protection Systems

The roof-top components of an effective lightning protection system are placed at the tallest points in a structure. They are also spaced in a manner of regular intervals but not more than 25 feet apart on the ridges. They’re also strategically placed on the corners of the roof accordingly.

Additionally, as mentioned above, parapets, domes, solar collectors, and HVAC units should be fitted with air terminals if they don’t already fall under the protection radar set by the system. Roof-top components may be found in the following two types:

  • The first is an air terminal that is commonly referred to as a lightning conductor or lightning rod.
  • Metal fabrications and wires spread across the roof and lead down to the ground.

Air Terminals

Air terminals are made of a rod (hence the lightning rod) and a base attached to the rest of the system. Traditional lightning conductors were made using sharp and pointy rods, while modern ones come with a rounded edge, as this has now been proven to be far more effective.

Your Lightning Protection Company will ensure that the air terminals are extending at least twelve inches above the roof’s surface.

Materials Used In Air Terminals

Lightning rods must be made using highly conductive materials to be truly effective. You may find them made of copper, aluminum, copper alloys, and other conductive metals.

In the UK, a permanent fixture on the roof, as long as it is made of conductive material and is connected to the lightning protection system, is acceptable too. Thus, you will see ornamental fixtures, bronze statues or other decorative fixtures, metal rods for railings, metal domes, etc., used as a part of the lightning protection system to help maintain the beauty of the structure while also ensuring that the building is safe from lightning hazards.


Roof-top lightning protection, while not too complicated, should only be installed by a Lightning Protection Company with trained and experienced engineers. It requires careful planning and calculations to ensure effectiveness.

If you need lightning protection systems installed or want your current system to be tested by a professional, get in touch with South West Lighting Protection right away. Don’t wait for the thunderstorm to come rolling in!

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