How do I prevent lightning strikes on my old Singaporean building from killing my electronics?
January 18, 2009 11:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I prevent lightning strikes on my old Singaporean building from killing my electronics?

I recently moved to Singapore, and have an apartment in a building that was built in the 1940's. Most of my appliances have the standard US plugs, so I was given a bunch of power converter boxes to make them work.

As soon as I moved in, all my neighbors and coworkers started warning me of our buildings being a huge lightning rod. Apparently whenever there is a big thunderstorm, our buildings get struck by lightning, which ends up killing whatever electronic appliances are plugged in. Everyone has horror stories of losing multiple TVs and computers due to lightning strikes. I've asked many people here if there was a way to prevent it, but it seems like no one knows of a way and just accepts it. The only suggestion is to unplug everything during a storm.

Since I can't always guarantee I'll be home when a storm starts, and since I'd prefer not to sit in dark silence every time it starts raining, can someone who has a better understanding of power and electronics offer an alternative solution? (modifying the building in any way is not an option.)
posted by jimdanger to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should have mentioned that my suggestion of using a standard surge protector was dismissed with "it won't work."
posted by jimdanger at 11:10 PM on January 18, 2009

Get a surge protector, which acts as a regulator during voltage spikes.
posted by smorange at 11:11 PM on January 18, 2009

This seems to be a decent starting point for the appropriate search terms: Lightening Safety: Transient surges
posted by zippy at 11:12 PM on January 18, 2009

This article (available with IEEE membership, may also be at your local University library) appears to go into more detail: "Transient/surge protection devices-how to make sure they are effective. Karmazyn, H.J. Lightning and EMC, IEE Colloquium on
30 Jan 1996 Page(s):6/1 - 6/6

Summary:The increasing volume of electronic systems in use today means that even modest lightning activity can result in damage to electronic systems. Use of transient overvoltage protectors provides a means of solving this problem. However not all protectors are the same, and here the author describes methods to ensure that the protector selected is effective"
posted by zippy at 11:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's one of the top results in Google for 'lightning arrestor' - Delta Lightning Arrestors. I haven't used this company's products, but the home-spun site plus the serious engineering geekery on each page give me the impression that what they sell will get the job done.
posted by zippy at 11:19 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

APC technology has always worked well for me when bearing the load of power surges/failures
posted by orville sash at 8:38 AM on January 19, 2009

Whatever you do about surge protection, be sure to include your phone/cable/DSL lines as well as your electrical outlets. I've had a router fried in a lightning strike when other electronics survived; it was the one thing that wasn't plugged into a surge protector.
posted by immlass at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2009

surge protector =( to direct lighting hit. I don't know what the power spike is through your building, but a surge protector does nothing to a direct hit, as your neighbors have attested to. This may be an ask dan question (, he's around here sometimes too.. paging dansdata)
posted by defcom1 at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2009

In my experience, a close/strong enough lightning can and will fry your electronics by way of eddy currents even if they're not plugged in.

My only suggestion would be to try and mitigate the damage by using power strips with a fuse and a switch to isolate them from the network as required, so that you're at least protected against less powerful lightning strikes. As far as I know, though, Singapore is one of the places on earth with the highest lightning density.
posted by _dario at 4:23 PM on January 19, 2009

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