Do Generators Attract Lightning? Knowing Your Risks + Tips

Last Updated on February 23, 2023 by Manager Access

Do Generators Attract Lightning

Although you can’t avoid severe weather, there are things you can do to stay safe and warm in your home. One of them is using generators. However, while they do work, you might be worried if they’re safe to use. Now, do generators attract lightning?

A generator or electricity grid may attract lightning when power tools with extension cords connected to a generator are exposed outdoors during a thunderstorm. Lightning is drawn to electricity lines more powerfully as they approach zero volts. Proper installation and shelter of generators are essential, especially during a storm.  

Generators are a great backup option to guarantee that activity may go as usual during storms and power outages. Read on to find out if generators do attract lightning and how you can safely use one before, during, and after a thunderstorm.

Are Generators Considered Lightning Magnets?

Lightning striking a generator or electricity grid is a common occurrence throughout the world. Natural lightning typically draws the alternating voltage reaching a negative value. The earth has a ground potential of zero, and lightning can be drawn to electricity lines more powerfully as they approach zero volts.

The energy from a lightning bolt on power lines or generators must go someplace, and that somewhere is directly into your home. There is a considerable risk that parts in one or more of your electrical gadgets will be damaged if you haven’t secured your house and electronics. The likelihood that this may occur to you, increases with the frequency of lightning strikes in your neighborhood.

Now, to know more about that, let’s talk about power surges.

What Is a Power Surge?

What Is a Power Surge?

A power surge is a substantial voltage increase in your home’s electrical energy or electrical current. A power surge of any form may greatly surpass the typical 120-volt flow of energy that most residential electrical systems are only capable of handling.

The first step to dealing with power surges, also known as transients, is to utilize a surge protector on the home’s electrical devices. These can detect surges and respond in a matter of microseconds to nanoseconds in most cases.

How do you deal with it?

As mentioned earlier, power tools with extension cords connected to a portable generator should not be used outdoors during a thunderstorm since the likelihood of getting hit by lightning is high.

Suppose the electricity goes out during a thunderstorm. In that case, it’s usually OK to use an appropriately installed generator to power appliances in your home or business.

There shouldn’t be an issue if they are not exposed to the elements or linked to the main (external) power lines. The primary issue with lightning is that when it strikes close to poles that support the electrical system, strong currents build into the cables and travel long distances before reaching your home.

So, what really attracts lightning?

Both the earth’s surface and clouds attract natural lightning.

Despite the common belief, gripping or wearing metal does not really cause lightning to strike. Where a lightning bolt will hit depends on where the storm is concerning the location. Your chances of getting hit by lightning will rise significantly just by being outside during a thunderstorm. It doesn’t matter what you’re holding or wearing or if you’re standing next to your generator.

Considering that, be mindful when you’re outside. If you are going to be struck, it will alert you. Take urgent action when you sense the warning signs (hair standing on end, tingling, or feeling of static electricity): drop low (roll into the ground if possible).

Lightning is a powerful electric spark that may create up to 10 million volts and has enormous energy. Generally speaking, lightning strikes are in two categories: cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground.

Cloud-to-cloud, or lightning that moves from one cloud to another, is the most straightforward lightning route with the least resistance to hit. The second classification is what we encounter—cloud to ground strikes.

In cloud to ground, lightning generally attracts to:

High Spots

Lightning Strike on Forest during Night Time

A hilltop or grove of trees is more likely to attract a lightning bolt than a low area or stream bed because lightning seeks the shortest route between the cloud base and the ground to complete the circuit. For this reason, lightning regularly strikes mountaintops.


steeper roof

Consider two identically sized residences, one with a level roof and the other with a steeply pitched roof. Since the points on the steeper roof enable electrical charges to concentrate, lightning will likely strike it there first since it provides a vulnerable location for it to target.

Lightning Gets Into Your Home Via Conductors

Lightning Gets Into Your Home Via Conductors

Lightning energy may enter a home via metal pipes and cables, which can have harmful and hazardous effects. The four manifestations of electrical power in a natural lightning strike are light, heat, ionization, and explosion.

Is It Safe To Use A Generator In A Thunderstorm?

Portable generators are a valuable tool when there’s a power outage due to a storm. If utilized correctly, they can really be handy.

Following is some safety advice for using generators during a storm:

  1. Run it outside your home or a locked garage — Carbon monoxide poisoning may be brought on by the fumes very fast. Place the generator away from doors and windows and at least 20 feet from the house. Do not use it in an enclosed space.
  2. Run it in dry conditions only. You may purchase tents from hardware shops or place them in a dry garage. Never operate a portable under rain or snow.
  3. Purchase more gasoline if you ever anticipate using a generator for several hours. Always have an adequate supply of fuel on hand.
  4. Turn off your generator and allow it to cool before refilling — A fire may start if gasoline unintentionally spills on a hot engine.
  5. Avoid attempting to “back feed” your home. Backfeeding attempts to power your house by connecting your generator to electrical outlets while using other equipment. That could result in electrocution. Also, important: do not overload your generator.

How To Safely Use And Maintain A Generator Before A Storm

Maintain A Generator Before A Storm

It’s essential to heed the cautions on your generator. If you know thunderstorm season is coming, take your generator out of storage, empty the fuel tank, and properly dispose of the gasoline.

Check the oil in the engine regularly. If not, it may run out of oil in an emergency and become unusable. Check the oil level before each usage.

Don’t forget to fill up your portable generator with clean, new, unleaded fuel. Although ethanol up to 105 percent is permitted, non-ethanol gasoline is advisable.

Additionally, you should inspect the generator thoroughly, look for fractures in the fuel line, and repair it if required. Fill the tank with new gasoline, start the generator, and plug in a few appliances to ensure everything operates as it should.

Any issues? Get it fixed, so it will be available when you need it most.

How To Avoid Lightning Damage to Your Generator Set

The capacity of the generator set, the intensity of the nearby lightning bolt, and the specifications for a reliable power supply should be the significant determinants of your lightning protection strategy.

Theory and experience have shown that the generator set linked to the overhead transmission line via the transformer often does not need lightning protection measures as long as the transformer is adequately protected.

How To Avoid Lightning Damage to Your Generator Set

Installing a series of magnetic arresters on the generator set’s incoming line is recommended to prevent the lightning wave on the high-voltage side of the transformer from damaging the insulation of the set.

The magnetic arrester is often used as a lightning arrester to safeguard high-voltage spinning electric machines, and the arrester should be near the generator. You may put the arrester at the motor’s outlet under typical conditions.

Following the requirements of the national standard design code, generator sets directly connected to overhead distribution lines must have lightning protection.

The neutral point of a direct-matching motor should have a magnetic blower or a standard valve-type arrester fitted on it if it can be drawn and is not directly grounded. The rated voltage of the arrester shall not be less than the generator set’s maximum operational phase voltage. is an independent review business. I am not affiliated with any manufacturers and do not accept paid reviews. When you buy through my links, I may earn a commission which helps me purchase more generators for testing. - Scott Krager

Leave a Reply