When you’re watching your favorite TV show, it’s hard to switch off the TV, even during a thunderstorm. However, it’s also true that lightning and electronics are not on the best of terms. My repair shop often deals with electrically-challenged TVs, and several don’t survive the outcome. So, can you watch TV during a thunderstorm?
A TV is not exempt from lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. Non-grounded rooftop antennas are more susceptible to lightning strikes; lightning travels through household wiring to your TV. Surge protectors help a little, but the only way to protect your TV is to unplug it from the wall outlet.
While there’s a genuine possibility of lightning damaging a TV, there are a few things you can implement to reduce the chances of a lightning strike. We’ll look at the characteristics of lightning and the effect it has on your TV and other electronics. Finally, we’ll talk about antennas and how you can protect your TV and home from surges and fires.
Can You Watch TV During A Thunderstorm?
If you want to watch TV during a thunderstorm, you should know there is a real possibility for lighting to cause irreparable damage to your TV. The average household produces 120 volts and 15 Amps of power, while a typical lightning bolt can produce 300 million volts and about 30,000 Amps of power.
As you can imagine, household appliances like TVs that lead to an outside line are at risk of being damaged during a thunderstorm. When lightning strikes, it sends a surge of electricity through all the household wiring, flooding the circuits of every plugged-in electrical device and frying them.
So, unplug your TV, music system, and computer because their circuitry is particularly vulnerable to lightning surges. When unplugging your TV, don’t disconnect only the power cable; remove the HDMI, antenna, and LAN cables because residual energy inside the cables can cause traveling sparks.
Lightning that strikes far from your home is still a risk because it can hit a power line leading to your home. If it does, it will instantly enter your home through the wall outlets and damage your TV.
Using a surge protector is like wearing protective gear on a motorcycle; it will help some, but it ultimately will not save you if a vehicle drives head-on into you. To date, no surge protectors can protect your TV against 300 million volts.
Thus, the best and only way to protect your TV from a thunderstorm is to unplug it from the wall outlet, cutting it off from any contact with electricity, telephone, or cable lines. Leave it unplugged 15 – 20 minutes after the storm passes because lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the center.
Should You Unplug Your TV Antenna During A Thunderstorm?
You can’t get hit by lightning while watching TV inside your home, but if you try to disconnect your antenna while the storm is overhead, you will be shocked by the electric charge build-up.
If you’re aware a storm is on its way and it means serious business, it’s wise to disconnect your antenna, too, and not only the TV from the wall outlet or the cables – especially if you have a rooftop antenna.
Your antenna does not need to take a direct lightning hit before your electrics become damaged. A secondary discharge to your antenna can blow out the front end of your TV if it carries enough voltage. Nearby lighting can also surge your TV’s main supply and eventually the power supply.
However, unplugging your antenna during an overhead thunderstorm is a huge red flag, and you risk receiving a nasty electrical shock from static build-up. In the worst-case scenario, if you touch the antenna as it gets a direct hit, you will sustain severe injury or even worse.
So, if you’re not in time to unplug your antenna, let it be and risk your TV over your health.
If you have concerns about other electrical devices, know that your TV will likely not conduct any more electricity than other devices. Because you are grounded when you watch TV, a blow dryer is much more dangerous because you hold it directly in your hand – like holding an antenna in your hand.
Non-Grounded Antennas are More Vulnerable To Lightning
Since TV antennas consist of metal, they are generally good conductors of electricity. However, if you ground an antenna, it creates a physical link between the electrical circuit and the earth that helps to combat electricity.
Anything during a thunderstorm that is not grounded will start to accumulate static charge. With enough static charge, it will naturally attract lightning. During this process, opposing charges will also gather on the ground.
The charges will attempt to make contact, creating an impressive amount of electrical
energy when they do. The accumulation of electricity is especially dangerous when you try to handle a rooftop antenna because it can give you a nasty shock.
When enough energy accumulates, it will generate voltage and send a powerful current through the wiring that will travel to the wall outlet and damage your TV. Thankfully, when your antenna directly connects to the earth, it prevents the build-up of electrical charge.
Although it can’t protect the antenna itself from a direct lightning strike, it will prevent the electricity from traveling through the household wiring and reaching your TV. Additionally, it will also prevent any house fires when you are not at home.
You can watch TV during a thunderstorm, but if lightning hits a nearby power line connected to your home, or if it hits your antenna, it can travel through the wiring and surge your TV. Surge protection helps slightly, but the best way to protect your TV from all damage is to unplug it from the wall outlet. Plug out all the cables in your TV, not only the power cable to avoid residual electricity causing a spark.