Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between StormTracker and the LD-250 Lightning Detector?
A: Both StormTracker and the LD-250 are magnetic direction-finding lightning detectors. They both work the same way to detect lightning and display it on your computer screen. The display software is almost identical. StormTracker is an internal card that requires a desktop computer with a free PCI card slot. The LD-250 is an external unit that connects to your computer’s RS232 COM or USB port, so it can be used with either a laptop or desktop computer. StormTracker & the LD-250 work Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, Win7, and Win8. Only the LD-250 can be used mobile.

Q: How does StormTracker detect lightning?
A: StormTracker detects the low frequency radio signals produced by lightning’s electrical discharge. This signal is the crackling you hear on an AM radio when thunderstorms are nearby. These signals travel for hundreds of miles and are detected by StormTracker’s antenna.

Q: How does StormTracker know where the lightning is?
A: StormTracker uses a direction-finding antenna to determine the direction the lightning signal came from. StormTracker’s receiver looks at the signal strength to calculate an approximate distance for the lightning strike. There is additional processing done in software to reduce the effect of strike to strike magnitude variations. Once StormTracker knows the direction and distance of the strike it plots it on the map.

Q: How fast does my computer need to be?
A: Any computer that will run Windows comfortably will run StormTracker and the LD-250 software without difficulty.

Q: How do I make a background map?
A: If you choose to make your own maps you will need to make a separate background map for each of the three ranges. The maps should be centered on your location and scaled so that the correct range is at the edge of the map. For example, the 200 mile map should be scaled so that it is 200 miles from the center to the edge of the map. The map should be 640x480 pixels with the center at 240,240. Save the maps in BMP format for the Windows software or PCX format for the DOS software. Map templates are provided to help in creating your maps.

Q: Can I run StormTracker without a background map?
A: Yes. In portable applications it may not be practical to have a map for each location, so you may choose to operate without a background map. You would see a small cross at the center of the display (your location) and range rings to indicate distance. Both the center cross and the distance rings are enabled from the Configure Screen configuration screen.

Q: Does the antenna need to be mounted outside?
A: The antenna may be mounted indoors provided the building is of wood construction with no metal to block the radio signals. Radio signals will pass through a wood frame building (the same way you can use a radio indoors). If the building has aluminum siding or foil lined insulation the antenna might need to be moved outdoors. Many people mount their antenna in the attic, which places it above most metal objects.

Q: How should I mount the antenna?
A: The antenna is a small black box about 3” x 2” x 1.5” with mounting flanges on the top and bottom which can accept nylon screws or nylon cable ties. The antenna may be mounted to any non-metallic support. If you mount the antenna outdoors you should mount it inside an enclosure. While the antenna itself is completely waterproof the cable connector should be protected from the rain. We recommend that you purchase a short length of PVC or ABS sewer pipe (at least 2.5” inside diameter, 2-3 feet long) from your local hardware store. Mount the antenna inside and place an end cap over the top. Keep a small opening at the bottom to allow any condensation to drain out.

Q: How high does the antenna need to be?
A: Height is not critical. While the antenna will work as low as 5 feet off the ground, raising the antenna higher will improve reception and reduce the likelyhood of local interference. The antenna needs to be high enough to place it above any large metal objects. Mounting the antenna on the second floor or in the attic is usually enough height.

Q: What is the maximum distance between the antenna and the computer?
A: You may have up to 200 feet of antenna cable. Fifty feet of cable is included with the system.

Q: What type of antenna cable do the Boltek lightning detectors use?
A: Both StormTracker and the LD-250 use an 8 conductor cable (4 twisted pairs). The cable and connectors are the same type as used in 10baseT network wiring.

Q: Should the antenna face true north or magnetic north?
A: The antenna needs to point in the same direction as the top of your map (usually true north). If the antenna is rotated away from north the strike locations will appear rotated as well.

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