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Lightning Rods (Air Terminals)

Originally invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, lightning rods (now often called air terminals) are designed to protect buildings or important pieces of equipment from being damaged by lightning strikes. Lightning is a random and unpredictable event involving the discharge of atmospheric electricity between clouds and the ground, usually occurring during stormy weather. Lightning rods do not attract lightning -- the lightning will strike regardless of whether the structure is protected by a rod, since modern construction using metal pipes, wires, and fixtures are better electrical conductors and thus make structure more likely paths.. Lightning rods are designed to provide an even more favorable path for the lightning to travel so that the enormous electrical current contained in the strike will not result in heat or fire damage.

Since lightning rods should be taller than the structure they are protecting, they are often mounted on the roof. The rod itself is usually a two inch diameter spike that is connected to a piece of copper or aluminum wire that is about an inch in diameter. The wire should be connected to a conductive grid buried in the ground nearby. The simplest rods are metal spikes, but rods that incorporate ornamental designs or that resemble weather vanes are also available.

Many people believe that surge suppressors (or protectors) will protect their electronics from being damaged by lightning strikes, but this is not the case. Surge protectors only protect
against surges of electricity coming through the electrical lines from the power company. A properly installed lightning rod is necessary to protect against lightning travelling through the structure of the building.

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