Lightning storms are amazing natural occurrences. They can also wreak havoc on your tech, especially if a lightning strike hits a power line or transformer near your home. The costs of one single surge can amount to thousands of dollars worth of damaged electronics including computers, monitors, stereo equipment, printers, scanners, televisions, external hard drives, and virtually anything else that plugs into the wall. Surge protectors are available, but are they enough? Here are some tips on how to protect your electronics during a lightning storm.
Let’s face it, nothing is absolutely 100% guaranteed to keep your person or possessions safe from an act of nature such as lightning. You can purchase riders on your home owner’s or renter’s insurance that will protect your electronics in the event of an electrical surge or lightning. Many general insurance plans cover electrical damage, but they set very strict limits on the amount that can me claimed at one time. By getting an additional plan on that specific equipment, you will be better prepared should the unfortunate happen.
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)
These devices act as a go-between for your electronics and the outlet. A rechargeable battery enables the UPS to take over powering your devices in the event of a power outage, brownout, or surge. This minimizes the chance that a sudden shutoff will corrupt data being written to the hard drive, or result in a loss of anything you’re working on at the time. Some UPS systems include guaranteed surge protection, which acts as a temporary warranty for anything plugged in to the UPS. Making a claim against this policy in the event that you do suffer electronic damage to anything plugged in to it can be like pulling teeth, though.
Possibly one of the simplest and most important things that should be connected to anything expensive and electronic is a surge protector. These can look like giant power hubs or simple strips, and carry a built-in stop in the event of a power surge. When this trips, all power is cut off from your electronics. Many of these come with an impressive dollar amount of guaranteed protection, but like their UPS cousins, making a claim against this can be difficult. For most everyday surges, a surge protector will work wonders. Unfortunately, lightning can still get past it if it strikes close enough or more directly.
Bottom line: if your computer isn’t plugged in, it is far less likely to be subject to electrical damage during a lightning storm. Unless lightning strikes the computer itself, or the general space where it’s sitting, the chances of it being damaged are next to nothing. As much as we hate giving up our electronics during a storm, unplugging them is the absolute best method of protecting them against surges or lightning strikes. For laptop users, take a particularly aggressive lightning storm as an opportunity to calibrate the battery by allowing it to run down, waiting five hours, and plugging it back in. This is good for the battery, and much safer than leaving it in to charge while lightning is striking.
Not all lightning damage presents itself immediately. You may notice a specific component of your computer (network card, video card, RAM, etc.) begin to become less reliable. Some electrical damage may not present itself until weeks, or even months down the road.
Mother Nature is a fierce and sometimes dangerous force. By taking a few steps to protect your expensive electronics, you can avoid losing them to lightning strike.