What to do when lightning strikes

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No, not a metaphor, I mean when actual lightning strikes your home/office.

This happened to a friend of mine, his house didn't take a direct hit but it was close enough to the phone cable to carbonise his phone wall socket, literally blow up his modem router and fry his motherboard. The smell of burnt plastic and carpet was quite evident when I went round to asses the damage. How his house didn't go up in flames, I don't know.

He had a surge protector for his electric mains with telecom protection too but he didn't have his phone/router connected. As it happens, even if he HAD connected his phone through the surge protector they are not designed to stop damage from such a close lightning strike.

And this is the message.

If you want to protect your phone line from lightning strikes you need to get a surge protector that specifically states that it can cope with lightning.

Belkin do something called a SurgeCube and there are probably more products to be had. After fixing my friend's setup, I made sure we both got one of these things (I didn't have one previously) - well worth the £5 I paid off Amazon.

Peter
#lightning #strikes
  • Profile picture of the author westom
    Originally Posted by Peter Bestel View Post

    If you want to protect your phone line from lightning strikes you need to get a surge protector that specifically states that it can cope with lightning.

    No protector does surge protection. A protector is only a connecting device. Protection is about where energy dissipates. Either a surge connects short (ie 'less than 3 meters') to earth. Or that surge hunts for earth destructively via appliances. Every incoming wire in every cable must connect to earth before entering the building. Either a direct wire connection or via a protector. A protector without a dedicated wire to earth does not divert energy harmlessly to where it is absorbed.

    How does that plug-in protector stop what 3 kilometers of sky could not? It doesn't. And yet that is what some believe when recommending a protector.

    Why is that wire burned? It was part of a path from cloud to earth. First a surge current flows through everything in that path. Later something fails. A most common source of a direct lightning strike is AC electric. A path incoming and outgoing through phone appliances - with or without a protector. Either divert (connect, shunt, bond) that energy (less than 3 meters) in earth. Or that energy hunts for earth destructively via appliances. That Belkin has no earthing connection AND does not claim protection in its numeric specs.

    A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. Typically one protector to protect everything - but only if properly earthed.
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  • Profile picture of the author Peter Bestel
    I'll bow to your knowledge of lightning strikes and maybe Belkin are aware that it will not save your equipment but it would then seem bizarre for them to make such claims and, as stated on their packaging,

    "Belkin will repair or replace any equipment damaged by a surge, spike or lightning strike while properly connected to a Belkin Surge protector, up to [£35,000]"
    Personally, I'd rather install a cheap device that at very least insures my equipment and, unless they are making fraudulent claims, would actually prevent my equipment from being harmed.
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Peter, Florida (where I live) is often called the "lightning capital of the US" for the pure number of strikes in a year.

      When it comes to my stuff, I'm the belt-and-suspenders type. I pay the local utility a monthly rental on a protector mounted between the utility pole and my house. All of my electronics are plugged into grounded outlets via power strips like you describe, with both surge filters and circuit breakers.

      Between the utility company and the manufacturers, my stuff is insured. And if we get a particularly violent thunderstorm, I just unplug stuff until it passes by...
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      • Profile picture of the author Peter Bestel
        Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

        And if we get a particularly violent thunderstorm, I just unplug stuff until it passes by...
        John, that's what I tend to do. I've got into the habit of unplugging it everytime we go out and before we go to bed as well.
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    • Profile picture of the author westom
      Originally Posted by Peter Bestel View Post

      ... maybe Belkin are aware that it will not save your equipment but it would then seem bizarre for them to make such claims and, as stated on their packaging,

      Subjective claims. Anybody can make subjective claims. No numbers is how a Belkin can also stop a tidal wave. Yes, it does block part a tiny part of the wave. Therefore it also protects from tidal waves?

      Belkin does protect from a type of surge that is not typically destructive. Did they mention other types of surges? The same protector circuit selling for $7 in a grocery store is also sold by Belkin for how much? $25? $70? Are they promoting protection - or profit margins?

      Your telco's switching computer connects to overhead wires all over town. Is threatened by maybe 100 surges with each thunderstorm. Your telco does not use Belkin (or equivalent) protectors. Instead, your telco pays tens or 100 times less money for a properly earthed 'whole house' protector. Effective protection means nobody even knew those 100 surges existed. Effective means direct lightning strikes do not even damage a protector.

      This is 100+ year old technology. That well proven. Why does Belkin not even discuss earth ground? Why do their protectors not have that dedicated wire to earth? How do Belkin's few hundred joules absorb surges that are hundreds of thousands of joules? How does the Belkin stop what three kilometers of sky could not stop? Belkin will not discuss any of that. Belkin is promoted to those most easily deceived; those who don't demand facts and numbers. Then recommend that myth to others.

      Where does Belkin's numeric specs claim protection from each type of surge? None of this is new. For example, the NIST (US government research agency) has bluntly defined what any protector must do:
      > You cannot really suppress a surge altogether, nor "arrest" it. What these
      > protective devices do is neither suppress nor arrest a surge, but simply divert
      > it to ground, where it can do no harm.

      Could the NIST be any more obvious? How does that Belkin earth energy? It does not. Does not claim to. Avoids all discussion about earthing. Belkin uses subjective statements in sales brochures so that many will automatically believe a myth. Where are their numbers? Belkin's only numbers - joules - says it is near zero protection. Near zero protection is protection. Sufficient to claim "Surge Protection" in big letters. Subjective claim that gets the naive to recommend it.

      A protector is only as effective as its earth ground. No way around a technology well proven for over 100 years.

      How do we identify the inferior products? They hype a large money warranty. According to the warranty, GM products must be better than Honda and Toyota. GM is offering a massive warranty. Belkin's warranty is so chock full of exemptions as to not be honored. But somehow that proves the Belkin does what even its numeric specs do not claim? Big quid warranties are how an inferior product gets promoted. The informed, instead, learn from numeric specs and the underlying science.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Dotcom Hippie
    If that ever happens to my home studio and kills my 20 something synths, my new computer and effects racks, I'll probably be jumping off a cliff before the smoke has settled.
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    • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
      Originally Posted by The Dotcom Hippie View Post

      If that ever happens to my home studio and kills my 20 something synths, my new computer and effects racks, I'll probably be jumping off a cliff before the smoke has settled.
      I unplug everything in the project studio when I am not using the equipment.

      Don
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      • Profile picture of the author Colin Evans
        Having just installed a UHF/satelite internet system to a thatched cottage, I was scared s***less by the posibility of the roof going up from a lightning strike and I found this site particularly useful in explaining a) what happens during a strike, and b) how to properly ground all the equipment:

        lightning misconceptions
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        • Profile picture of the author xiaophil
          Originally Posted by westom View Post

          Blah blah blah blah flux capacitor blah blah blah blah 88 MPH blah blah blah blah 2.54 Gigawatts...
          How's Dragon Naturally Speaking working out for you?

          Originally Posted by westom View Post

          Every incoming wire in every cable must connect to earth before entering the building.
          That would certainly slow things down.

          Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

          Over 330 joules, and your system could get fried. Even if the maximum isn't hit, your system could get a shock for about 1ns.
          330 joules expended in 1ns would be 330 Gigawatts (no joke), but that is about right for the peak power of a lightning strike.
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        • Profile picture of the author westom
          Originally Posted by Colin Evans View Post

          ... I found this site particularly useful in explaining a) what happens during a strike, and b) how to properly ground all the equipment:
          lightning misconceptions
          That citation discusses the concept of diverting energy harmlessly. But one sentence is deceiving. It suggests grounding your equipment. What it says apparently is not what the author intended to say. Grouding the equipment can mean lightning will seek earth ground through that equipment. Destructively.

          Grounding must be where wires approach the equipment. Better grounding means the shortest distance possible to earth. And a larger separation between equipment and that ground.

          Of course, when earthing is installed, the equipment is therefore saftey grounded. But where the ground is located is important. Ground must be somewhere before lightning gets near to the equipment.


          Even wood is an electrical conductor. Anything we install so that lightning has a better path to earth means ligthning will not strike wood or a thatched roof. That is what a lightninig rod does. Same concept that a 'whole house' protector does. Provides a better (conductive) path to earth ground. Then lightning need not strike to find earth via a less conductive material - your roof.

          Also view citations in lightningsafety.com. Lightning rods have a conical protection region. Another protection method is to locate a satellite dish beneath that cone.
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  • Profile picture of the author Diana Lane
    Our house was hit by lightning once (it was the day Princess Diana died). It took out our phones, answerphone and the TV. It could have been a lot worse - what I remember most was my youngest son wanting to go outside and look at the storm in the garden, and me telling him to take his hand off the metal door handle and stay in, about sixty seconds before we were hit. I'm super-cautious now and protect everything where I can, and unplug at the sound of the first rumble of thunder.
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    • Profile picture of the author westom
      Originally Posted by Diana Lane View Post

      I'm super-cautious now and protect everything where I can, and unplug at the sound of the first rumble of thunder.

      Unplugging is one a less reliable solution. Humans are not reliable. Do you routinely unplug the clock radio, smoke detector, dishwasher, bathroom GFCI, and furnace? Of course not. Those also need protection. Especially the most critical device when a surge happens: the smoke detector.

      Early 20th Century Ham radio operators would disconnect rigs from the antenna. Even put the antenna lead inside a mason jar. And still suffer damage. Damage stopped when the antenna lead was earthed. If you are super cautious, then you are religiously inspecting what provides surge protection.

      A 'whole house' protector is only secondary protection. Each protection layer is defined only by the always required 'system component'. Earth ground. An informed homeowner also inspects the primary surge protection system (system will not let me enter this):
      Three w's dot tvtower dot com slash fpl.html

      A protector is only as effective as its earth ground - which is what every informed homeowner so cautiously inspects or upgrades. Your earthing must meet and exceed post 1990 National Electrical code (wall receptacle safety grounds are not earth grounds). Either that energy dissipates harmlessly in earth. Or that energy hunts for earth ground destructively inside the building. Where do you want that energy?
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  • Profile picture of the author Peter Bestel
    I think it's fair to say, if you receive a direct hit (or very near hit) then you'll be lucky to have a house left, never mind a PC. As with most protection, it willl only be a strong as its weakest link.

    However, most lightning damage occurs after the lightning hits some distance away and your property suffers smaller surges. There is no reason that I can find, apart from Westom's doom and gloom, to believe that a decent surge protector won't protect you from these 'secondary' hits.

    Another, seemingly balanced article on the subject can be found here:

    Lightning Protection Advisory from The Computer Wizard

    Peter

    P.S. Worth noting that if your house has been hit once, then you're MORE likely to be hit again - sorry Diana
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    • Profile picture of the author westom
      Originally Posted by Peter Bestel View Post

      I think it's fair to say, if you receive a direct hit (or very near hit) then you'll be lucky to have a house left, never mind a PC.

      Your telco's switching computer is connected directly to overhead wires all over town. According to research published in the Bell System Technical Journal, a CO suffers about 100 surges with each storm. So your whole town is without phone service for four days while they replace that computer? If any town suffers a switching computer damaged by lightning, that is a national news story. It is that rare. It must never happen. Because for 100 years, direct lightning strikes are routinely earthed - and nobody even knew the surge existed.

      Anyone denying this from knowledge would have posted numbers. Peter Bestel has posted a subjective claim that so routinely promotes junk science. The numbers. A typical direct lightning strike is 20,000 amps. A minimally sized 'whole house' protector is rated to conduct 50,000 amps without damage. How can this be if Peter *knows* direct lightning strikes destroy houses?

      ABB demonstrates the same concept with electric transmission lines. Those are also routinely struck without any damage. Why? See the demonstration. Lightning strikes even to munitions dumps must not cause explosions - because diverting any direct lightning strike harmlessly to earth is routine. See the ABB demo to appreciate why direct lightning strikes are made harmless (system will not let me provide this easily):
      Triple w, colon, tinyurl dot com slash 2bwlhn

      Electronics atop the World Trade Center were struck 40 times annually - without damage. Electronics atop the Empire State building average 23 strikes without damage. Routine is to have direct lightning strikes without damage. Damage due to lightning is directly traceable to human failure. Harmlessly earthing a direct lightning strike is that routine. When damage does happen, then humans return to learn why humans made a mistake. And correct that human created defect.

      We install surge protection so that direct lightning strikes do not cause household appliance damage. That same properly earthed 'whole house' protector also makes lesser surges irrelevant - so that a surge does not overwhelm protection already inside every appliance.
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    • Profile picture of the author westom
      Originally Posted by Peter Bestel View Post

      Another, seemingly balanced article on the subject can be found here
      Originally Posted by Peter Bestel View Post

      Lightning Protection Advisory from The Computer Wizard
      I am often amazed how many know or recommend something when they do not even have basic knowledge. Right off the bat, that article is written by one who knows nothing about phones.

      > Additionally, if your surge protector doesn't filter your phone line
      > connection - and you have a phone line connected to your
      > modem - you're 'working without a net'.

      How does it filter something that three kilometers of sky could not stop. He claims some 2 cm part will stop lightning? Anyone with basic knowledge knows that TX author is lying - has no electrical knowledge. He claims a filter will somehow absorb hundreds of thousands of joules. Worse, Peter has so little technical knowledge as to endorse that malarkey.

      If a surge protector filters phone lines, then the superior DSL filter means no surge damage ever. Nonsense. Not only were telephone appliance damaged through that DSL filter. The filter was also damaged. Nothing stops lightning no matter what some electrically naive author posts.

      Peter's citation is written by one without electrical knowledge. A problem especailly common among computer reapairmen who need no electrical knowledge to pass the A+ Certified tech exam. He is so naive as to recommend products from APC, Panamax, and Tripplite - that have no earth ground connection. Author avoided the only item always necessary for surge protection - earth ground. Peter's citation promotes a very popular urban myth.

      His citation also said:
      > A side note for DSL subscribers: For one reason or another, DSL modems
      > do not like to be plugged into Surge Protectors and will lose your DSL signal
      > periodically as a result. There is no elegant solution to this, as to not have
      > your DSL modem protected is to risk damage to your computer.

      So the telco's expensive DSLAM at the other end of many DSL wire is replaced after every thunderstorm? That is what Peter and his article claim. He said nothing can protect DSL equipment. Instead, let's add reality to that malarkey. In North America, telephone line surge protectors that were even installed in the 1950 on every subscriber's line do not interfere with DSL. Even 1950 technology works on DSL lines. But one would have to learn fact before writing an article.

      Today, even better semiconductor technologies are used to earth phone line surges so that no DSL equipment suffers interference or damage. But that author did not know anything electrical. Peter also did not understand the obvious.

      Routine is to have direct lightning strikes to DSL lines - and no damage to DSLAMS or DSL modems. But that means one must first learn the technology that was understood and used even 100 years ago. Only one of us did. Peter's post is chock full of popular urban myths. If Peter had even basic electrical knowledge, then he would have immediately seen outright lies and myths in that TX computer repairman's article.

      Amazing. That citation said "Woe is me. Nothing can prevent DSL damage." Meanwhile, direct lightning strikes without DSL damage have been routine even in the 1980s when DSL was first installed. (Why would I know that and Peter did not?)
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  • Profile picture of the author Peter Bestel
    Westom,

    Have you finished?

    We are so grateful for you displaying your unbounding knowledge of electricity and lightning. I don't believe I ever claimed to be an expert, simply trying to help out my fellow Internet Marketers. (Notice I didn't say fellow electricians)

    I can quite accept if I have given duff information and I welcome corrections that will benefit other forum members. However, I don't appreciate your patronising, condescending tone nor your gobbledegook responses.

    As stated (and is obvious from the title) this forum is for internet marketers. Most of us are not electricians or physicists. Personally, I neither have the time nor inclination to learn the physics behind what causes lightning to occur and how it is prevented. I simply want a solution to stop it damaging my equipment.

    You are not the only expert on this subject and given the way you've attempted to put me right in this thread, forgive me if I choose to seek out another "expert" for my advice.

    Peter
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  • Profile picture of the author redfoxseo
    Wow long post and great discussion. I guess for me from what I have seen has been covered a few times here. A properly grounded house or electrical system I should say is what many people do not have and do not even realise it.
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  • Profile picture of the author westom
    Originally Posted by ProductCreator View Post

    btw never use a land-line telephone during a lightning storm. You can be killed by the surge coming through the earpiece.

    Which is why 911 operators leave the room - answer no emergency calls - when a thunderstorm approaches. Which is why telephone operators even 100 years ago took off their headsets and stopped working when thunderstorms approached? Reality. Everyone keep working because the solution was so well proven even 100 years ago.

    redfoxseo defined the reason for a phone lightning strike. As soon as you read this, did you go outside to inspect your earth ground? Why not? He defined the problem. I usually discover two out of ten older homes have no earth ground - let alone one sufficient to protect you and your appliances. Why did you not go outside immediately to inspect that earth ground? Why did you also not inspect a ground for your primary surge protection system?

    Only person responsible for ground integrity is the homeowner. Does not matter whether he knows what to look for. If someone using the phone is harmed by lightning, the homeowner first has himself to blame. Homeowner - and nobody else - is responsible for proper earthing. Either inspect it yourself or have an agent (electrician, home inspector, electric company) do it. Posted previously is what you must know to provide the safety that has been well understood for over 100 years.

    Routine is for cars to be fueled during thunderstorms. Why? Proper earthing and the necessary protection is installed. Routine is to leave that $multimillion telco switching computer connected and operating during every thunderstorm. Routine is for cell phone towers to operate during every storm. Why? Humans correct their mistakes so that lightning does not create a threat to human life or transistors. 100 year old knowledge. And still so many entertain myths rather than learn the science.

    What made Franklin's lightning rod effective? That is second grade science. The lightning rod is only as effective as its earth ground. It is the same concept. Either lightning is harmlessly connected to earth. Or humans and transistors are put at risk.

    Too many homes are missing that earth ground. In one local event, a wire failed in a nearby transformer. Because earth ground was missing, household electricity conducted through a gas meter - until a gasket failed and the house exploded. Does redfoxseo now have your attention?
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      Too many homes are missing that earth ground.
      My stepfather said that for years - he was an electrical engineer who ran his own electrical contracting business.

      I grew up in the midwest in big homes with lightning rods on the roof that had one end in the ground. Later, there were large TV antennas and they were grounded so replaced the lightning rods. I don't know what builders use now to ground homes but from damage friends have had I'd say it's not all that great.

      I live on the coast so if lightning is flashing around here I just unplug and take a break. I have surge thingies - but don't I don't expect them to work miracles.

      kay
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    A "surge protector"s job is NOT to stop a surge! It is to SHORT IT, or DISSIPATE it! The problem is that that takes a LOT of design and NOTHING is 100%. Look at any DECENT device(MANY break the law and don't even mention it), and you will see reaction/transfer time and dissipation. Hey look at what tripp lite says about THEIR premium surge protector...

    AC suppression joule rating 330 joules
    AC suppression response time NM = 0 ns. CM = <1 ns
    Protection modes Includes full normal mode (H-N) and common mode (N-G / H-G) line surge suppression
    Clamping voltage (RMS) 300V
    AC suppression components used Metal oxide varistors, toroidal balanced chokes, ferrite rod-core inductors and VHF capacitors.
    Isolated filter banks Unique isolated filter bank design offers additional filtering between each duplex pair of outlets on the strip to prevent electrical noise interference between connected loads. Includes 2 filter banks.
    Immunity Conforms to IEE 587 / ANSI C62.41
    Over 330 joules, and your system could get fried. Even if the maximum isn't hit, your system could get a shock for about 1ns.

    BTW Amps tell you NOTHING!!!!!!!!! They mean NOTHING in this context! Pay attention to WATTS which are AMPS*volts! BTW 1Joule is about 1Watt for 1second

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author John Romaine
    Sorry, but SURELY this is off topic????

    Im probably guity of doing it myself at some point, and I do apologise in advance if so, but it seems that Im beginning to see more and more NON IM related topics posted in this section of the WF. :confused:
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  • Profile picture of the author TelegramSam
    Dear Westom,

    Can you please come out of your bunker and in layman's terms, please advise the forum on some simple, easy to follow steps they can take, or their electrical company can take.

    You seem to be a bit harsh on Peter, who is simply trying to help people here.

    If you have superior knowledge on a subject, then there is no need to rub people's faces in it.

    Thanks.

    Sam

    P.S. - Perhaps Ramone, but if your computer is fried, there is no IM :-(
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    • Profile picture of the author westom
      Originally Posted by TelegramSam View Post

      please advise the forum on some simple, easy to follow steps they can take, or their electrical company can take.

      Numerous suggestions were provided. Number one - do not listen to what a majority believe only because it is promoted by salesmen. If a protector does not have a separate wire to connect directly to earth ground, then it can even contribute to appliance damage. Yes it may even contribute to appliance damage. That ground wire to a building's single point earth ground must be short (ie 'less than 3 meters'), no sharp bends, separated from all other non-grounding wires, not inside metallic conduit, etc. A protector is only as effective as that earth ground.

      A plug-in protector violates most every requirement. A responsible homeowner inspects and upgrades earthing (because only earth ground provides surge protection). And installs one 'whole house' protector. It is that simple. Costs about $1 per protected appliance.

      If your protector has names such as APC, Belkin, Tripplite, or Monster Cable, then it does not even claim effective protection. Responsible companies sell 'whole house' protectors for tens or 100 times less money per protected appliance. Superior products that cost less money are from General Electric, Siemens, Keison, Intermatic, Leviton, and Square D - among others. All well respected companies. A Cutler-Hammer solution sells in Lowes for less than $50. Then direct lightning strikes do not cause Peter's mythical damage.

      Every incoming wire inside every cable connects to earth ground before entering a building. Cable TV and satellite dish are best protected with no protector. A short wire from the coax (ground block) to earth ground is the best protection. It is that simple. The ground block costs $2.

      AC electric and telephone cannot connect directly to earth. So we ground via a 'whole house' protector.

      Above is secondary protection. Each protection layer is defined by the one item that provides surge protection - single point earth ground. Homeowners should also inspect their primary surge protection system. Again, what provides protection? (The system will not let me post the URL.)
      Triple w colon tvtower dot com slash fpl.html .

      An overwhelming majority blindly believe myths that Peter has posted. Few bother to learn what was known even 100 years ago. Peter is promoting a massive scam mostly because he does not even know how electricity works. Even his TX computer repairman is technically naïve - as if nothing can protect DSL. Plug-in protector manufacturers will not claim surge protection in numeric specs. Some routinely ignore that sentence. Again, devices recommended by Peter and the TX computer repairman do not even claim that protection in numeric specs.

      Where are the numbers? No protection numbers exist. A protector without that short connection to earth does not provide effective protection - obviously.

      Even DSL protection from direct lightning strikes is routine; despite what Peter's citation says. Nothing adjacent to electronics can or claims to provide effective protection. Either inspect, upgrade, and connect to earthing. Or have no effective surge protection. The solution is that simple.

      Could the NIST be any more blunt about Peter's myths? The NIST (US government research agency) says why Peter is lying:
      > A very important point to keep in mind is that your surge protector will work by diverting
      > the surges to ground. The best surge protection in the world can be useless if grounding
      > is not done properly.

      What Peter has recommended is called 'useless' by the NIST. I call it ineffective because I am not as harsh as the NIST.
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