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Lightning and surge protection

Surge protection

Surge Protection – a topic that has become increasingly important in recent years as got wide presence across industries. Costly electronic equipment, which is sensitive to voltage peaks on the supply, is no longer found only in offices and factories, but in our homes as well.

Nowadays, highly- sensitive data processing, telecommunication and computer networks form the back-bone of worldwide communications structures without which, no company can survive. Machines and production lines are monitored and controlled by electronic equipments programmed for specific purpose. Even many creative services are no longer conceivable without the aid of computers.
Common to all of them is their dependence on clean electrical energy, within tight tolerance limits and on a continuous supply of power around the clock.

Internal Lightning Protection according to IEC
Lightning current consists of a First stroke followed by a number of subsequent strokes. According to IEC 61024 and IEC 61312, wave shape of the first stroke is calculated to be 10/350 μSeconds.

lightning pulse

Approximately 25 to 30 % of failures in electrical/electronic equipments are because of surges created either by a Lightning or because of switching surges as per the data released by leading insurance companies

power survey

Lightning Peak Current and Frequency of strike:

The maximum value of Lightning current can go up to 200 KA as per IEC 61312 which is in the shape of 10/350 μ Seconds.

Lightning Current Distribution:

According to the standards IEC61024 and IEC 61312, during a lightning strike in a building having an external lightning protection, the lightning current reaches the earth termination. A part of Lightning current goes to earth and remaining part gets coupled into the building through conductive media like Steel reinforcement in Concrete, Earth Conductor Metal Parts connected to earth etc.

lightning distribution

The 100% of lightning energy breaks down as follows according to IEC61312:
–  50% of the lightning current will flow through the ground
–  50% of the lightning current will flow over the connected metal parts of the building (gets coupled into the building)
To protect electrical & electronic equipments inside the building, this 50 % of Lightning current which is entering into the building has to be diverted to the metal parts which is connected from outside. (Metal Water pipe, Metal Sewage pipe, Power lines, data lines etc)

Class B: (Class 1 according to IEC 61643 as well as Class C according to VDE0675)

is an arrester which is designed to carry a lightning current of 10/350 μ Sec duration. Important parameters to be taken care are Lightning Impulse current carrying capacity and Voltage Protection Level (Let through or limiting or clamp voltage)
Class C: (Class II according to IEC 61643 as well as Class C according to VDE0675)

is an arrester which is designed to carry a Surge current in the shape of 8/20 μ Sec. Important parameters to be taken care are Maximum or Nominal Discharge Current carrying capacity and Voltage Protection Level
Class D: (Class III according to IEC 61643 as well as Class D according to VDE0675)

is an arrester which is designed to carry a Surge current in the shape of 8/20 μ Sec as well as tested with a voltage impulse in the shape of 1.2/50 μ Sec. Important parameters to be taken care is Voltage Protection Level

connection diagram SPD

SPD’s are made with Spark Gaps, Metal Oxide Varistors(MOV) Silicon Avalanche Diodes(SAD), Gas Discharge Tubes(GDT) or a combination of these devices
Spark Gaps and GDT’s:

These are called as ‘voltage switching type’ SPD’s. The operating voltage can be determined by the distance between the electrodes. Spark gaps are arresters in which two or more electrodes in series are opposed to each other. The electrodes consist of incombustible material (e.g. carbon or tungsten-copper). Spark gap based arresters used in power line between Line and Neutral should be capable of interrupting the Short Circuit Current (also called as follow current)


Advantages – It can carry Very Large amount of Surge Current for a long Duration
Disadvantage – Need more time to react (about 100 nano sec), high follow Currents

(Metal Oxide Varistors) Varistors are ‘Voltage-dependent resistors’ with a highly non-linear V/I characteristic. Their electrical properties arise from a large number of micro-varistors connected in parallel and in series. The transitions between the micro-varistors can age under the influence of over voltages. Varistors are called as voltage clamping type SPD’s


Advantages – Faster than Spark Gap (approximately 25 nano sec). Limited current carrying Capacity
Disadvantage – Detoriation after every surge. Can create short circuit after a Maximum discharge current flow

Avalanche Diode:

Transzorb diodes (also known as suppressor diodes) are diodes that limit both positive and negative over voltages. Because of their very fast switching performance (in the picosecond’s region) they are well suited for use in precision and data line protection devices. These are also called as voltage clamping type surge arresters

Avalanche diode

Advantages – Very fast response to surges

Disadvantage – Very low surge current carrying capacity

By using Surge arresters at various zone boundaries, Transient over Voltages created due to a Lightning strike or switching surges can be limited below the Voltage Impulse with standing capacities of the equipments in respective zones.

SPD example

Write to us for more queries on queries@microsystemservices.

Also see

1. Does an AVR or surge (spike) suppressor really protect from voltage fluctuations???

2. How  does Servo Stabilizer work?


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1 Comment

  1. csrmurthy says:

    pl sugeset a relay to single phase supply 230v to protect against 440v occuring due to heavy rain & wind so that I can Install at Kwh meter out going to hv protect heating & lighting circuit equipments


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