Lightning Protection

I've read on other posts that a whole house arrestor is the best protection against damage from lightning strikes. Can anybody describe what having an arrestor installed would entail? Is this something the power company has to perform, or can any qualified electrician do the work? How expensive is it? How effective is it, or do I have to supplement the arrestor with other safeguards?

I have a friend who has had his house hit twice and his boat hit twice.
SQUARE-D Makes a surge arrester for residental. I think it's around $300.00 or a little less. This is a great first line of defense against any unwanted spikes coming in off the line. These can be installed by an electrician in about one hour.

True lightning protection is another animal. You need to install a lightning rod or rods and grounding grid. Better have someone who knows lightning protection systems over to do the work.
If it hits you house or even very close, ther isn't much you can do to protect electronic stuff.

I live where a close hit happens most years. Over the years, I had a surge protector installed by my utility company on our pole mounted transfromer, a surge protector on my main electrical box and a surge protector on my electrical box dedicated to my audio system. I also have dedicated AC lines/additional grounds and power conditioners on all audio components. With all this, most years, we loose somthing on our sat dish (either an LNB or a motor). I have all this documented for my insurance agent. I also keep an up to date list of components(including interconnects and speaker cables) for my 2 current systems. I even had copies sent to the insurance company office for review before I signed the policy.

I did this after a hit killed my stat system, new large screen TV, pre-amp and power amps. My insurance company at the time expected a local audio shop to repair my stuff. After weeks of angry calls and letters, they finally replaced the TV (after the local TV shop admitted their repair attempts had not worked), replaced the sat receiver and offered a small replacement budget for my pre-amp and mono amps(Adcom 750 and Adcom 300w amps bought mail order).

I immediately started looking for a new insurance company and new electronics. I upgraded to Erie insurance through a local agent who came for a listen, Aloia pre-amp, Plinius amps and a whole second system all from established dealers...

Your best bet is to have a complete list of your audio/video equipment, go over it with your insurance agent so when a claim is made, there is no question of what the replacement value is, who can determine the damage and in the case of out of date components, who can recommend a replacement. Often, a very high end system will require an additional ridder, but the cost is small compared to the problems of trying to get the uninformed agent to pay on a standard home policy. Also, a reliable dealer who can support you is invaluable when an expensive component must be replaced (as is almost always the case with pre-amps and digital gear).
Lazarus is dead nuts right. Just unplug your system. I've had expierence with complete systems from air terminals to full surge suppresion systems including full single point grounding systems. You can do everything, still take a direct hit and have damaged equipment. Your best bet is to unlpug and save your money.
I strongly agree with the general attitude of "There is no protection from direct lightning strike!" Get good home owner's insurance! Don't waste money on surge protectors!
Thanks for the advice and comments. As a practical matter unplugging the equipment won't always be effective. I live in a part of the country where thunderstorms are quite common. Realistically, I'm not going to constantly plug and unplug my electronics whenever there's a possibility of a thunderstorm. I'd turn into a Weather Channel junkie watching for the next red area on the radar. Besides, unplugging assumes I'm actually in the house when it's thundering. I recognize that no there are no failsafe solutions, but every little bit helps.
Hi OnHwy61:
Surge protection is a wise investment & is certainly better than prayer alone. You may have read my old postings regarding my whole house surge protection by Joslyn Electronic Systems. This is a gas tube discharge primary arrestor (actually there are two large metal-envelope tubes, one for each 120V leg, mounted inside a metal box with fuses & neon pilot lights). I simply mounted the box on the basement wall next to my service panel. I shut off primary power on the pole outside & wired a #6 conductor in parallel with each incoming leg across the enterance lugs. The ground line coming back out of the Joslyn connects to service ground. The fuses are just for catastrophic meltdown protection, in case a tube shorts. These tubes fire at 140 volts, clamping transients to ground.
Actually the Joslyn is the 2nd-in-line protector. Utility company provides an MOV (metal oxide varistor) type arrestor on the 1500VAC incoming to the pole transformer. There is also a 3rd level of protection, this being a smaller 130V MOV paralled across the outlet for my dedicated AC line to the audio rig. The 4th protection level is another larger MOV contained within the Chang Lightspeed AC line conditioner; this is stock from the factory. In some cases (when warranty has expired) I even install another 130V MOV within components themselves.
All of this is still no guarantee of immunity. Once out of the two times that we were hit directly outside, I still experienced some damage, but it was at least survivable/repairable. Otherwise with no protection at all, the equipment would have been blown completely to smithereens. That's what happened the very first time, before I did all of the aforementioned. Other hits have occurred where the transients came in from further down the line. In these cases, when the Joslyn fires it hums loudly like a very large motor starting up. I experienced no damage at all from those incidents, nor from the power company switching transients that do occur from time to time as the Joslyn + MOV's handles them too.
True it is not always practical to unplug the equipment, but I still do that whenever possible. Since I always leave the rig powered on, there are times when no one is home to take care of things. There was even one incident where a $4000 amp was plugged in but not turned on; it was still damaged because a snubber capacitor was wired across the internal power switch & the cap coupled plenty of energy into the amp. The damage was minimal & repairable however; it would have been much worse & without any protection at all the amp would have been junk.