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What is Lightning Conductor Testing? - Electrical Testing The Ultimate Guide

Every year, lightning strikes thousands of commercial and residential buildings across the UK. As the vast majority of these buildings have in-built lightning conductors and earthing systems, the strikes cause little to no damage. In fact, in many cases, the residents and property owners will have no idea that their building has been hit. 

In order to ensure lightning conductors and earthing systems are protecting a building and working as they should, they need to be tested on a regular basis. Testing these systems will help to protect tall, prominent buildings and ensure they are safe for use by businesses and members of the public. 

What is Lightning Conductor Testing?
Lightning conductor testing, or lightning protection testing, is a process by which all lightning conductors and earth grounding installations are visually inspected and tested. In order for a lightning protection testing procedure to be thorough, safe and valid, it needs to be carried out by a qualified electrical engineer. This electrical engineer should have extensive experience using an appropriate lightning protection testing method. This will ensure the testing is carried out to a high standard.

Testing the lightning protection earthing systems on large buildings helps to keep these important safety features in good condition. It also ensures the property meets the relevant British safety regulations. 

Why do we need lightning protection systems? 
A lightning strike can cause considerable damage to a building if no lightning protection systems are in place. In very rare circumstances, a direct strike can cause a fire in the property. This normally happens when the lightning causes a power surge in the electrical system, overloading it and causing it to malfunction. 

Even if the power surge caused by a lightning strike does not result in a fire, it can still do considerable damage to a property. Appliances and electronics that are plugged into power sockets can be severely damaged by an electricity surge. In some cases, their electrical systems can be completely destroyed. If lightning strikes an office block with multiple computers and other expensive electronic equipment plugged in, this can result in significant damage.

Lightning strikes can also cause physical damage to a property. When lightning hits a building, shock waves are often produced. These shock waves can cause cracks to appear in materials like render, brick, concrete and stone. In some cases, lightning strikes can cause windows to shatter and even create cracks in the foundation of a building. If these shockwaves travel right through a building, they can also cause cracks in the foundations of the property, something that can undermine its structural integrity.

When should lightning conductor testing be done? 
The Electricity at Work Regulations, 1989, state that lightning protection systems need to be tested in accordance with the relevant British Standard.  These standards include:

BS EN 62305-2: The purpose of BS EN 62305-2 is to provide a procedure for the evaluation of the risk lightning flashes pose to a structure. A lightning protection risk assessment on UK properties should be carried out once every twelve months. 

BS EN 62305-3: British standard BS EN 62305-3 provides the requirements for protection of a structure against physical damage by means of a lightning protection system. It also provides the requirements for protection against injury due to touch and step voltages in the vicinity of a lightning protection system. 

BS EN 62305-4: BS EN 62305-4 provides information for the design, installation and maintenance of lightning electromagnetic impulse (LEMP) protection measures. These measures protect electrical and electronic systems within structures and are able to reduce the risk of permanent failures due to LEMP. 

In order to ensure a property meets these safety standards, tests need to be carried out every year. These lightning protection tests, and all other tests on the lightning protection system, should be undertaken by fully trained and qualified electrical engineers. 

What is Earthing System Testing? 
An earthing system is an important part of a lightning protection installation. Properly earthing the building ensures that, if the property is struck by lightning, the electrical charge is able to pass safely into the ground. This helps to prevent damage to both the structure of the building and people using the property. 

In order to ensure the earth system is working as it should, lightning earthing testing needs to be carried out on an annual basis. The checks that must be made include testing the resistance to earth of the earth termination network as a whole. In addition, each individual earth electrode must be tested. Carrying out these tests thoroughly, and on time, will ensure the residential or commercial lightning protection system is in good working order.

What is Soil Resistivity Testing? 
Soil resistivity testing is the process of measuring a volume of soil to determine the conductivity of that soil. The resulting soil resistivity is typically expressed in ohms. The resistance to earth of the whole system must not exceed 10 ohms.

An understanding of the soil resistivity and how it varies with the depth of the soil is very important for the design of electrical earthing systems. In fact, this testing of the earth resistance is the single most critical factor in electrical earthing system design. 

Protecting your building
A lightning protection system is an important part of designing and maintaining a safe and secure building. When it is in good working order, a lightning protection system will help to prevent electrical surges and shockwaves, keeping both the electrical system and structure of your property safe. 

If you would like to find out more about maintaining and protecting your modern render, join one of our monthly CPD webinars. Aimed at surveyors and property managers who want to expand their knowledge on modern render, these informative sessions can help you better manage your building. Find out more by getting in touch with a member of our team or by following us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

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