A lightning rod could be beneficial in this weather…

Wednesday April 21 2021
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While every house could use a lightning conductor, taller structures need it more. PHOTO/unsplash

By Promise Twinamukye

A  UNESCO report on lightning shows on a satellite map of Uganda that the Lake Victoria area, Adjumani, Amuru, Nwoya, Moyo and Kiryandongo are at very high risk of being struck by lightning within a range of 30 to 40 flashes km/yr.

The report also shows areas where lightning has killed people around Lake Victoria, Kiryandongo, Adjumani, and Amuru. The rest of the country is still at high risk of lightning strikes, with a range of 15-30 flashes km/yr.

With those risks, a lightning conductor is therefore a necessity especially for tall buildings.

A lightning conductor is placed on the roof of the house or nearby trees or any other structures around the home. The lightning protection system creates a direct path for the lightning charge to  reach the ground, keeping the house safe.

According to Yiga Abdulhakim,  an electrical engineer, every house needs a lightning rod. Tall or storeyed buildings, however, need it more because they are rather higher than most houses. Single storey houses often do earthing which  renders lightning protection system less of a priority, though necessary.

Earthing, according dmlights.com is a conductor that connects all the electrical appliances and taps off leakage current to the earth around the house. It forms an essential part of every installation, since this earthing or grounding prevents electrocution from happening. When an erroneous isolation occurs, a differentiation switch will automatically turn off the power.

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However, this only protects the people in the house and not the metallic surfaces and installations. To save the house, therefore, a lightning conductor is necessary.

As one goes out to buy a lightning conduction system for one’s house, they should keep in mind that pure copper is the ideal rod.  This is in addition to mat and tape (the one that connects the rod to the mat in the ground) for guaranteed safety over the years.

Coated, or pure copper rod?

John Kamoga, an electrician at Mirembe electricals, Kiyembe Lane in  downtown Kampala says coated copper conduction rods can work but their efficacy ends when the coating wears off. However, if one bought pure copper rods, it would  last a long time and not need to be replaced for years.

According to Yiga, it is common to often get copper coated rods and tapes on the market which is why one needs to be careful if one is looking for genuine copper.

“A Do-It-Yourself measure that can be taken to identify a coated and pure copper rod is taking with you a magnet to the market. Once the copper is pure, it will attract the magnet. However,  it does the opposite if it is coated,” Yiga says.

Size of the house

One also needs to know length and breadth of the house. This is because copper tapes are sold in metres. One will not know how long a tape they may need for their house if they do not know how big the house is.

Yiga also points out that it is possible for a house to require more than one lightning rod especially when the house is very big.

He adds that a  structure, however short it is, if it has a lot of metal for example a factory, will need a lightning protection system. This is because lightning moves through metals.

Cost

According to Yiga, one has to buy a full system which includes the rod, tape and mat and other supportive materials.

The average price of a copper rod ranges from Shs70, 000 to Shs80, 000 . However, these tend to be coated.

Kamoga says that a genuine copper rod will cost an average Shs140, 000 or above. A copper tape costs from Shs15, 000 to Shs25, 000 per metrer

The mat costs between Shs150, 000 to Shs190, 000.

The average installation prices are basically 30 per cent of the cost of the material bought for the installment.

According to Kamoga, an understanding has to be reached between the engineer and the house owner. depending on the weight of labour .

These are the average prices from different stores including Nakasero and Energy Centre among other electric stores.

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