There are two basic voltage surge that may cause damage to the system and its corresponding equipment and apparatus. These are:

1. Switching Surge
2. Lightning Surge

Switching Surge - These are voltage abnormalities that are caused by changes in the operating state of the power system, that involves switching (literally) of breakers, disconnect switches, and other switch gears. It happens as trapped energy are released during the event.

Lightning Surge - These are voltage abnormalities caused by the phenomenon of lightning. Damaged may be experienced through direct stroke or hit, or by induced voltages. Lightning are harmful, and runs in millions of voltages, which makes the equipment vulnerable without protection.

The risk of having your equipment exposed to both of these abnormalities can be greatly reduced with the application of surge arresters. Not to be confused, surge arresters refers to devices which could protect from the aforementioned abnormalities.

Lightning arresters on the other hand are specifically named protection device, designed more for lightning protection, but in itself is capable enough to protect it from switching surge.

Below are selected article links to help you understand further what is a lightning arrester and how lightning arrester works:

It is unfortunate, but a fact of life, that computers, computer related products and process control equipment found in premises data communications environments can be damaged by high-voltage surges and spikes. Such power surges and spikes are most often caused by lightning strikes. These causes may include direct contact with power/lightning circuits, static buildup on cables and components, high energy transients coupled into equipment from cables in close proximity, potential differences between grounds to which different equipment’s are connected, miswired systems and even human equipment users who have accumulated large static electricity charge build-ups on their clothing. Read more...

A lightning/surge arrester is a device that protects structures from electrical damage by intercepting lightning surges and diverting them to the ground. Lightning arresters are connected directly to the ground via low resistance cables, although they are generally mounted on high buildings or other structures in order to attract electricity. Read more...

How do Lightning Arresters Protect Power Systems?
Although Lightning Rods are devices that divert lightning surges to ground, they are simple conductive terminals that are always at ground potential and are never energized. Read more...

Lightning Arresters A Guide to Selection and Application 
Surge protection has been a primary concern when connecting devices and equipment to  low-, medium-, or high-voltage electrical systems.  As the use of products and equipment with components and insulation systems vulnerable to voltage surges and spikes continues to increase, the requirement for surge arresters to protect against the effects due to lightning strikes, switching phenomenon, etc., continues to increase as well.

Analysis and Design Selection of Lightning Arrester for Distribution Substation
Distribution substations feed power to the actual consumers through distributors and service lines. The main equipments are generators and transformers. To protected these equipment and for stability purpose, over voltages and over currents protection are important to consider. Lightning is  one of the most serious causes of over voltage. If the power equipment especially at outdoor substation are not protected, the over voltage will cause burning of insulation. Lightning arrester can protect the damages of equipment. Read more...

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