Top Picks for Best Lightning Detectors: Expert Reviews

Stay safe with these picks from WeatherFlow, Talos, and AcuRite

Last Updated on:

severe thunderstorm with lightning

Lightning is one of nature’s most beautiful and dangerous weather phenomena. According to NOAA, the U.S. averages about 20 deaths yearly, with hundreds more injured. Personal lightning detectors are valuable because they warn of one of nature’s most violent and potentially deadly weather events during severe storms.

Lightning detectors don’t just protect you but the electronic devices in your home. Our everyday electronics are susceptible to damage from static discharges, and even an indirect lightning strike to your home can fry the electronic components inside. We’ve searched high and low for the best lightning detectors and have come up with a few options.

Read more: 15 Lightning Safety Tips to Keep You Safe in a Storm

How We Chose the Best Lightning Detectors

Brands we trust and have personal experience with always get top priority in our best-of lists. In addition to being a trusted brand, solid customer support is also important. These lightning detector manufacturers earn good reviews for both.

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We also look at value. Weather gadgets can get quite expensive (we speak from personal experience), and lightning detectors generally aren’t cheap. While the AcuRite 02020 is pretty inexpensive, you’ll typically need to spend $100 or more for a reliable and accurate detector.

While we only give top billing in our lists to products we can physically test, that’s not always possible. In that case, we turn to customer reviews. Only reviews from actual owners are considered to ensure we get a clear picture. Are there patterns in their praises? Patterns in the complaints? Does the device detect lightning strikes accurately? Those are important to point out to you.

While we’ve seen dozens of lightning detectors, these stand out for their storm tracking capabilities. These are all perfect for consumer use: if you’re looking for lightning detection for your business, we’d recommend Boltek’s product line.

Most consumer models are handheld lightning detectors so you can take them anywhere. Boltek’s pro-grade detectors are expensive — the cheapest sets you back $1,400 — but you get detection out to 250 miles, including the capability to determine where the strike occurred, which is needed to assess storm direction. The below only provides a distance, typically around 25 miles, which might not be sufficient for commercial applications.

Like other weather gadgets, the best lightning detectors are pretty expensive. However, if you want an accurate device that can detect lightning without false positives due to interference, you will pay more. However, an affordable lightning detector is better than nothing. Relying on the weather forecast isn’t always the best idea.

Our Top Picks

Talos Lightning Strike Detector
Editor's Choice

The American-made TALOS is one of the best-selling lightning detectors on Amazon, thanks to its superior lightning detection capabilities.

Advertisements
Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector
Best Battery Life

While not as good as the TALOS in eliminating interference, this model scores well thanks to long battery life.

General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7
Affordable and Accurate

General Tools makes a lot of tools, including this well-reviewed lightning detector.

Best Lightning Detectors

1
Talos Lightning Strike Detector
Editor's Choice

Talos Lightning Strike Detector

The American-made TALOS is one of the best-selling lightning detectors on Amazon, thanks to its superior lightning detection capabilities.

Understandably, not everybody needs the functionality of a weather station. If you're looking for excellent performance and accuracy, then the US-built TALOS Lightning & Storm Detector is the way to go. This portable unit gets great reviews for its detection capabilities and is chock full of functionality.

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With a rugged and waterproof design, we could see this lightning detector becoming popular with outdoor enthusiasts. The device's front features a strip of LEDs that use different colors to display strike distances up to 25 miles. We've heard buyers report they've detected strikes with the TALOS lightning detector more than 40 miles away, especially over water.

The TALOS is not cheap, however, and is one of the more expensive out there. But it's an accurate device, and its superb detection capabilities and its resistance to interference make it the best personal lightning detector.

What We Liked
  • Exceptional performance and accuracy
  • Reports of 40 mile range over water
What We Didn't Like
  • Higher cost
2
Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector
Best Battery Life

Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector

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While not as good as the TALOS in eliminating interference, this model scores well thanks to long battery life.

If long battery life is your primary concern, then we'd recommend opting for the Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector. Generally, its detection capabilities are good, although perhaps not as free from interference issues as the TALOS detectors. But no other detector comes close in terms of battery life, that's for sure.

What We Liked
  • Long battery life
What We Didn't Like
  • Susceptible to interference issues
3
General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7
Affordable and Accurate

General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7

General Tools makes a lot of tools, including this well-reviewed lightning detector.

Generally, lightning detectors are expensive weather gadgets. But General Tools is known for its high-quality, low-cost tools; surprisingly, the LD7 works well. While we haven't tried out the LD7 personally, it caught our eye during Amazon searches for its generally good reviews given its price. Unlike the other detectors, the LD7 can be attached to a keychain or belt using the included carabiner.

What We Liked
  • Low cost and accurate
What We Didn't Like
  • Interference may pose an issue
4
Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector
Best Lightning Detector with a Screen

Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector

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If you'd 

Some may prefer more than just LEDs to warn of incoming lightning strikes. In this case, we'd recommend Robic's Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector. It's more expensive than the TALOS and uses different colored LEDs to indicate lightning strike distance; however, the display offers more detail on nearby strikes.

The display offers information on one-hour storm trends and lightning intensity, and an audible alarm is triggered when strikes are detected close by. Robic also claims "360-degree detection," claiming its competitors suffer from "blind spots."

Even with the additional functionality, the Robic still has incredible battery life. On just two AA batteries, the Robic Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector lasts quite a while, but we'd warn it's nowhere near the 80 hours that Robic claims.

What We Liked
  • More detail on strikes than the TALOS provides thanks to the display
What We Didn't Like
  • Battery life claims are overblown

Also Consider

Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector
Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector
Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector

TALOS does offer a cheaper version of its lightning detector in wearable form. Added bonus, if you're a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and at the stadium, the TALOS wearable lightning detector reacts to the lightning effects in a special way. While detection might not be as robust as the larger detector, it still is one of the better detectors available on the market.

AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector

If you're on a really tight budget and can accept a little less accuracy, the AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector is a good buy. While it is much more susceptible to interference than the above models, The AcuRite 02020 does an acceptable job in most situations.

This Acurite lightning detector has a detection range of about 25 miles, with both a visual (a flashing red LED light on the top) and an audio alert when strikes occur. The screen will display strike distances each time it registers a strike and an overall strike count. The display is backlit, making it useful even in low-light situations.

The biggest issue with the AcuRite 02020 is its susceptibility to interference and a tendency to get "stuck." Buyers report problems with false strikes and that from time to time, the device would ask users to change their location but not resume operation when they do.

What is lightning, and why does it happen?

Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge. This typically occurs when ice or water particles in the atmosphere collide, transferring electrical charges, and leading to lightning strikes between these two points. But what causes the thunder you hear with a lightning strike? It’s exploding air! The lightning bolt heats the air in its path, which causes super-heated air to expand and explode. That explosion creates the sound of thunder, and the light from it is the bolt.

The same type of charge occurs when you rub your feet on the carpet and then touch something like a metal door handle: it creates an electrostatic discharge which can cause a spark to jump between your hand and the metal. The same type of build-up happens in our atmosphere during thunderstorms. When the build-up gets too intense, lightning strikes through the sky.

Lightning also occurs when a charge is conducted between the ground and an object, called cloud-to-ground lightning. The charge travels from the ground upwards. Lightning strikes can cause fires if they strike an object, but a lightning strike on the water will spread out over the surface. This is why you should move away from any large bodies of water during thunderstorms. The lightning strike doesn’t have to be direct for you to get hit! Intra-cloud lightning strikes, more commonly called cloud-to-cloud lightning, occur between two clouds.

There are many different types of lightning, including heat lightning. Heat lightning is named this because it’s often seen during summer nights from thunderstorms too far away to hear the thunder itself.

You won’t have to worry about being caught off guard with a lightning detector. They work even when you can’t see the lightning yet — because the lightning detector detects electromagnetic interference caused by a lightning strike, even when the lightning bolt is too far away to be visible.

10 Lightning Safety Tips

  1. “If thunder roars, go indoors.”
  2. Stay away from doors, windows, outside walls, and anything metal.
  3. Avoid contact with water.
  4. Stay off any electrical device powered by a wall plug.
  5. Don’t go outside until 30 minutes after lightning was last seen.
  6. If you’re swimming, get to land immediately.
  7. Do not camp or sleep in tents during lightning storms.
  8. Avoid open fields and high ground (such as hills).
  9. Never shelter under a lone tree.
  10. And of course, consider lightning detectors to get advanced notice!

How do lightning detectors work?

Lightning detectors provide warning of approaching thunderstorms, often well before you hear any thunder. These lightning detectors use the same concept. A sensor inside “listens” for the electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that lightning produces. You might already have listened to an EMP yourself listening to AM radio, and the static crash you hear during a thunderstorm is the interference from the EMP.

The intensity of these pulses is used to offer a rough estimate of your distance from a detected strike. However, don’t wait until strikes approach to act: lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm! That’s why a lightning detector can save your life.

Should I buy one?

Lightning detectors are a smart buy for anyone who spends considerable time outdoors during the spring and summer months. It’s even more critical for those who might not have immediate access to adequate shelter, such as golfers, runners, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Outdoor businesses should also consider a lightning detector. Some higher-end options offer the capability to detect nearby lightning and track it, too, allowing you to better judge whether nearby lightning poses a threat. A lightning detector is perfect for outdoor businesses like restaurants, bars, and pools, to name a few.

What to Consider When Buying a Personal Lightning Detector

Our picks are only suggestions, and we urge you to shop around. If you find one not on our list, using our tips below will help you decide whether it’s a good buy.

Directional information

Any lightning detector should notify you of a nearby lightning strike and how close it is. Nearly every lightning detector we’ve seen can do this, but some DIY kits may not.

Distance

A good lightning detector uses EMP signal strength to estimate distance. We’ve seen accuracy in our tests within one or two miles of actual strike reports from professional networks in the higher-end models. Cheaper models typically have trouble with this as they’re more prone to interference.

Range

The Boltek professional lightning detector we recommended earlier can detect lightning up to 250 miles away. The sensor range is limited to about 25 miles with consumer-grade detectors, although a higher-end personal lightning detector can often detect strikes beyond that.

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Logo of The Weather Station Experts

Why you can trust our reviews

We have experience with all the products and companies we recommend here on TWSE. Our review staff includes degreed meteorologists and scientists, some of whom have owned the products they review for several years. Our staff has reviewed home weather gadgets for over a decade both on TWSE and elsewhere.

How we test

A weather station or gadget must score highly in our scoring metrics in several key areas, including accuracy, value, durability, ease of use, and feature set. We accept products for review, but we do not accept compensation in exchange for a positive review.

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The Weather Station Experts participates in affiliate programs including Amazon Associates. We may receive a commission from clicking links on our site.

Stay safe with these picks from WeatherFlow, Talos, and AcuRite
Advertisements

Lightning is one of nature’s most beautiful and dangerous weather phenomena. According to NOAA, the U.S. averages about 20 deaths yearly, with hundreds more injured. Personal lightning detectors are valuable because they warn of one of nature’s most violent and potentially deadly weather events during severe storms.

Lightning detectors don’t just protect you but the electronic devices in your home. Our everyday electronics are susceptible to damage from static discharges, and even an indirect lightning strike to your home can fry the electronic components inside. We’ve searched high and low for the best lightning detectors and have come up with a few options.

Read more: 15 Lightning Safety Tips to Keep You Safe in a Storm

How We Chose the Best Lightning Detectors

Brands we trust and have personal experience with always get top priority in our best-of lists. In addition to being a trusted brand, solid customer support is also important. These lightning detector manufacturers earn good reviews for both.

Advertisements

We also look at value. Weather gadgets can get quite expensive (we speak from personal experience), and lightning detectors generally aren’t cheap. While the AcuRite 02020 is pretty inexpensive, you’ll typically need to spend $100 or more for a reliable and accurate detector.

While we only give top billing in our lists to products we can physically test, that’s not always possible. In that case, we turn to customer reviews. Only reviews from actual owners are considered to ensure we get a clear picture. Are there patterns in their praises? Patterns in the complaints? Does the device detect lightning strikes accurately? Those are important to point out to you.

While we’ve seen dozens of lightning detectors, these stand out for their storm tracking capabilities. These are all perfect for consumer use: if you’re looking for lightning detection for your business, we’d recommend Boltek’s product line.

Most consumer models are handheld lightning detectors so you can take them anywhere. Boltek’s pro-grade detectors are expensive — the cheapest sets you back $1,400 — but you get detection out to 250 miles, including the capability to determine where the strike occurred, which is needed to assess storm direction. The below only provides a distance, typically around 25 miles, which might not be sufficient for commercial applications.

Like other weather gadgets, the best lightning detectors are pretty expensive. However, if you want an accurate device that can detect lightning without false positives due to interference, you will pay more. However, an affordable lightning detector is better than nothing. Relying on the weather forecast isn’t always the best idea.

Our Top Picks

Talos Lightning Strike Detector
Editor's Choice

The American-made TALOS is one of the best-selling lightning detectors on Amazon, thanks to its superior lightning detection capabilities.

Advertisements
Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector
Best Battery Life

While not as good as the TALOS in eliminating interference, this model scores well thanks to long battery life.

General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7
Affordable and Accurate

General Tools makes a lot of tools, including this well-reviewed lightning detector.

Best Lightning Detectors

1
Talos Lightning Strike Detector
Editor's Choice

Talos Lightning Strike Detector

The American-made TALOS is one of the best-selling lightning detectors on Amazon, thanks to its superior lightning detection capabilities.

Understandably, not everybody needs the functionality of a weather station. If you're looking for excellent performance and accuracy, then the US-built TALOS Lightning & Storm Detector is the way to go. This portable unit gets great reviews for its detection capabilities and is chock full of functionality.

Advertisements

With a rugged and waterproof design, we could see this lightning detector becoming popular with outdoor enthusiasts. The device's front features a strip of LEDs that use different colors to display strike distances up to 25 miles. We've heard buyers report they've detected strikes with the TALOS lightning detector more than 40 miles away, especially over water.

The TALOS is not cheap, however, and is one of the more expensive out there. But it's an accurate device, and its superb detection capabilities and its resistance to interference make it the best personal lightning detector.

What We Liked
  • Exceptional performance and accuracy
  • Reports of 40 mile range over water
What We Didn't Like
  • Higher cost
2
Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector
Best Battery Life

Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector

Advertisements

While not as good as the TALOS in eliminating interference, this model scores well thanks to long battery life.

If long battery life is your primary concern, then we'd recommend opting for the Robic Strike Alert Personal Lightning Detector. Generally, its detection capabilities are good, although perhaps not as free from interference issues as the TALOS detectors. But no other detector comes close in terms of battery life, that's for sure.

What We Liked
  • Long battery life
What We Didn't Like
  • Susceptible to interference issues
3
General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7
Affordable and Accurate

General Tools Personal Lightning Detector #LD7

General Tools makes a lot of tools, including this well-reviewed lightning detector.

Generally, lightning detectors are expensive weather gadgets. But General Tools is known for its high-quality, low-cost tools; surprisingly, the LD7 works well. While we haven't tried out the LD7 personally, it caught our eye during Amazon searches for its generally good reviews given its price. Unlike the other detectors, the LD7 can be attached to a keychain or belt using the included carabiner.

What We Liked
  • Low cost and accurate
What We Didn't Like
  • Interference may pose an issue
4
Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector
Best Lightning Detector with a Screen

Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector

Advertisements

If you'd 

Some may prefer more than just LEDs to warn of incoming lightning strikes. In this case, we'd recommend Robic's Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector. It's more expensive than the TALOS and uses different colored LEDs to indicate lightning strike distance; however, the display offers more detail on nearby strikes.

The display offers information on one-hour storm trends and lightning intensity, and an audible alarm is triggered when strikes are detected close by. Robic also claims "360-degree detection," claiming its competitors suffer from "blind spots."

Even with the additional functionality, the Robic still has incredible battery life. On just two AA batteries, the Robic Strike Alert HD Lightning Detector lasts quite a while, but we'd warn it's nowhere near the 80 hours that Robic claims.

What We Liked
  • More detail on strikes than the TALOS provides thanks to the display
What We Didn't Like
  • Battery life claims are overblown

Also Consider

Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector
Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector
Talos Personal Lightning Strike Detector

TALOS does offer a cheaper version of its lightning detector in wearable form. Added bonus, if you're a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and at the stadium, the TALOS wearable lightning detector reacts to the lightning effects in a special way. While detection might not be as robust as the larger detector, it still is one of the better detectors available on the market.

AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector
AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector

If you're on a really tight budget and can accept a little less accuracy, the AcuRite 02020 Portable Lightning Detector is a good buy. While it is much more susceptible to interference than the above models, The AcuRite 02020 does an acceptable job in most situations.

This Acurite lightning detector has a detection range of about 25 miles, with both a visual (a flashing red LED light on the top) and an audio alert when strikes occur. The screen will display strike distances each time it registers a strike and an overall strike count. The display is backlit, making it useful even in low-light situations.

The biggest issue with the AcuRite 02020 is its susceptibility to interference and a tendency to get "stuck." Buyers report problems with false strikes and that from time to time, the device would ask users to change their location but not resume operation when they do.

What is lightning, and why does it happen?

Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge. This typically occurs when ice or water particles in the atmosphere collide, transferring electrical charges, and leading to lightning strikes between these two points. But what causes the thunder you hear with a lightning strike? It’s exploding air! The lightning bolt heats the air in its path, which causes super-heated air to expand and explode. That explosion creates the sound of thunder, and the light from it is the bolt.

The same type of charge occurs when you rub your feet on the carpet and then touch something like a metal door handle: it creates an electrostatic discharge which can cause a spark to jump between your hand and the metal. The same type of build-up happens in our atmosphere during thunderstorms. When the build-up gets too intense, lightning strikes through the sky.

Lightning also occurs when a charge is conducted between the ground and an object, called cloud-to-ground lightning. The charge travels from the ground upwards. Lightning strikes can cause fires if they strike an object, but a lightning strike on the water will spread out over the surface. This is why you should move away from any large bodies of water during thunderstorms. The lightning strike doesn’t have to be direct for you to get hit! Intra-cloud lightning strikes, more commonly called cloud-to-cloud lightning, occur between two clouds.

There are many different types of lightning, including heat lightning. Heat lightning is named this because it’s often seen during summer nights from thunderstorms too far away to hear the thunder itself.

You won’t have to worry about being caught off guard with a lightning detector. They work even when you can’t see the lightning yet — because the lightning detector detects electromagnetic interference caused by a lightning strike, even when the lightning bolt is too far away to be visible.

10 Lightning Safety Tips

  1. “If thunder roars, go indoors.”
  2. Stay away from doors, windows, outside walls, and anything metal.
  3. Avoid contact with water.
  4. Stay off any electrical device powered by a wall plug.
  5. Don’t go outside until 30 minutes after lightning was last seen.
  6. If you’re swimming, get to land immediately.
  7. Do not camp or sleep in tents during lightning storms.
  8. Avoid open fields and high ground (such as hills).
  9. Never shelter under a lone tree.
  10. And of course, consider lightning detectors to get advanced notice!

How do lightning detectors work?

Lightning detectors provide warning of approaching thunderstorms, often well before you hear any thunder. These lightning detectors use the same concept. A sensor inside “listens” for the electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that lightning produces. You might already have listened to an EMP yourself listening to AM radio, and the static crash you hear during a thunderstorm is the interference from the EMP.

The intensity of these pulses is used to offer a rough estimate of your distance from a detected strike. However, don’t wait until strikes approach to act: lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm! That’s why a lightning detector can save your life.

Should I buy one?

Lightning detectors are a smart buy for anyone who spends considerable time outdoors during the spring and summer months. It’s even more critical for those who might not have immediate access to adequate shelter, such as golfers, runners, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Outdoor businesses should also consider a lightning detector. Some higher-end options offer the capability to detect nearby lightning and track it, too, allowing you to better judge whether nearby lightning poses a threat. A lightning detector is perfect for outdoor businesses like restaurants, bars, and pools, to name a few.

What to Consider When Buying a Personal Lightning Detector

Our picks are only suggestions, and we urge you to shop around. If you find one not on our list, using our tips below will help you decide whether it’s a good buy.

Directional information

Any lightning detector should notify you of a nearby lightning strike and how close it is. Nearly every lightning detector we’ve seen can do this, but some DIY kits may not.

Distance

A good lightning detector uses EMP signal strength to estimate distance. We’ve seen accuracy in our tests within one or two miles of actual strike reports from professional networks in the higher-end models. Cheaper models typically have trouble with this as they’re more prone to interference.

Range

The Boltek professional lightning detector we recommended earlier can detect lightning up to 250 miles away. The sensor range is limited to about 25 miles with consumer-grade detectors, although a higher-end personal lightning detector can often detect strikes beyond that.