Surge protection and lightning protection are similar concepts with independent systems involved in each function. While there is crossover between the two with regardto protection of sensitive equipment and computerized systems against surges, the lightning protection models involve both different equipment as well as a different philosophy. For the sake of discussion, the sources of each type of power surge must be identified, and even though the methodology utilized against power surges of all types remains the same, the identification of the source will determine whether standardized surge protection or lightning protection created the savings against loss.
First and foremost, we need to discuss how different types of electrical surges are created. Lightning strikes will generally create a power surge far larger than any other incident. Most power grid systems will be susceptible to fluctuations in the regulated flow of electricity throughout any typical day. The flow of power begins at the grid level and travels to the facility which is utilized in the power via the same lines that feed all communities and residents of a region. There are sometimes fluctuations in this supply due to failures at the source or along the way. Examples of this can be found within transformer failures, trees falling on lines, and other types of disruption events. There are also power fluctuations that emanate from internal sources beyond the breaker board that serves as the entrance into a private facility. Switching errors are the most common of these disruptions, causing power fluctuations to happen as equipment is powered off or powered down. While these types of surges are generally not as large as a transformer failure or a lightning strike, they can cause the degradation of circuit driven equipment over time. This ongoing degradation results in shorter life spans of equipment them would typically be seen if surge protection systems were integrated.
Lightning strikes produce an enormous surge of power that can enter facilities in multiple ways. If the strike happens directly to the structure within which equipment is housed, many times power can flow along conductive materials and negatively impact equipment in the general vicinity. Power can also couple directly into the connectivity lines which supply electricity and communications information to each piece of connected equipment. If the lightning strike happens to couple into these cables, the power can flow in directions and over distances that are far greater than being relegated to the structure itself. In these cases, damage can be seen huge distances from the point of strike itself, due to the fact that it is flowing through the connectivity lines which typically allow for only regulated flows. This is why lightning protection is the umbrella term for systems which provided protection against the lightning strike itself as well as the surge which subsequently follows. Lightning protection in the form of overhead shielding and lightning rods tends to divert lightning strikes to a place where they can be handled appropriately. Surge protection involves the installation of components designed to cut off or drawn down the flow of electricity which is outside of the safe range of the equipment located downstream.