How to Protect a Gate Opener From Lightning

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Outdoor gate openers require protection from lightning as part of the electrical installation. The National Electrical Code (NEC) regulates all electrical installations in the United States. Electrically driven machinery that is permanently mounted outdoors falls under Article 675 of the NEC. Article 675-15 explains lightning protection and the installation of a ground rod placed near the stationary portion of the equipment. A long metal ground rod carries lightning safely into the earth when properly installed. The actual installation of the ground rod and subsequent wiring must follow rules dictated under Article 250-f, “Methods of Grounding.”

Things You'll Need

  • 8-foot ground rod
  • Hammer
  • Ground rod connector
  • Screwdriver
  • 8-feet of #6 AWG bare copper wire
  • Wire cutters

Place the end point of the 8-foot-long ground rod no closer than 6 feet from the stationary point of the electrically driven gate opener. This should be the main electrical connection box on the gate opener control mechanism, where all electrical connections are made for the unit. In other words, the ground rod must be kept 6 feet away from the main electrical box of the gate opener.

Pound the ground rod into the soil using the hammer. Keep the ground rod as vertically level as possible. Leave the top 3 inches of the ground rod exposed above ground.

Attach the ground connector to the exposed portion of the rod using the screwdriver. Tighten the two screws to hold the wire connector securely to the rod.

Insert one end of the #6 AWG bare copper wire into the wire connector on the ground rod. Tighten the screw to hold the wire in place.

Run the #6 AWG bare copper wire in a direct as line as possible to the gate opener’s electrical connection box. Cut the wire to length with the wire cutters.

Connect the bare copper wire to the metal electrical box mechanically. This can be done by loosening one of the mounting screws that holds the electrical box to the metal frame of the gate opener. Wind the end of the #6 AWG bare copper wire around the mounting screw and tighten into place. Ensure that a good mechanical bond is kept when tightening the screw.

Tips & Warnings

  • If two gate openers are employed, a separate ground rod must be installed for each piece of equipment as described above.
  • The lightning ground must not be used as the sole grounding point for the gate opener's electrical system as per Section 250-86 of the NEC. A separate grounding conductor must run from the electrical panel, source electricity for the gate opener, and be connected to all metal parts on the gate opener's electrical system.
  • Contact your local electrical regulating agency as local rules may supercede those printed in the NEC.
  • If you are unsure about grounding techniques for electrical systems; contact a licensed electrician to connect equipment for you.
  • AWG is the American Wire Gauge standard

References

  • “National Electrical Code”; National Fire Protection Association; 2002
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