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Lightning!
Old 07-18-2004, 08:31 AM   #1
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Lightning!

My North Carolina retirement nest had a quick and fierce visit from mama nature last week. The house is a 4 family "island style" which means ground floor garages. This is practical because every so many years when the tide surges its common to have a few feet of salt water in the garage. No long term disaster really because a few hours later the tide goes out and things slowly get back to normal. This type of weather anomaly I'm equipped to deal with. Lightning is a whole different story. The heck of it is, its rarely ever a real problem. When it manifests itself as a problem -- what the hell-- it probably won't ever happen again. Lightning isn't supposed to strike TWICE in the same place, right?

Wrong.

Within a few days we had multiple lightning strikes in the immediate area (less then 100 yds.). This is the discovered damage so far:
Four fried televisions
Three toasty garage door openers.
One well done fax machine.
One exploded electric wall receptacle.
All this just in our building. Reports are trickling in from the neighbors and one local appliance repair guy says he has no more space in the shop for tv's, "two hundred is my limit".


So what to do. I'm a reasonably intelligent, research-everything-to-pieces kinda guy. Hell I used to sell transient voltage surge suppression components and circuits to the high end computer industry. The first step was to get a refresher on the whole problem. I found this to be a helpful site:
http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/h...urge/surge.htm



Lock the doors, they's a'comin' in through the windows! The phenominal (spooky) thing about lightning is that it can get inside any way it wants. It can visit via electrical wire, coax, telephone wire, heating system (plenty of metal there) a combination of the above, or just through the air.

In the old days we were told to unplug the tv and remove the antenna connection (remember that clothspin - like contraption?). That was all there was to it! Not so today. Now we need to unplug tv, computer, monitor, fax , phones, anything with a dangling antenna like garage door openers, cordless phones, atomic clocks, and probably anything that uses a remote control. During storm season I might need to do this daily--- if I'm home. Don't think so might as well live in a cave.


Certainly a heavy duty whole house solution is required. Probably with some specific circuits being backed up.
As I remember you don't squash the surge, you send it to ground. Most products on the market use multiple metal oxide varistors (MOVs). We made tons of sales by showing customers that the typical lightning spike could easily damage devices downstream before the slow MOV ever knew what was happening. But that was 10 years ago.

How about any of you materials science guys out there. I'm sure improvements have been made. Tranzorbs used to be gold standard for switching speed.

Enough of the tech details. What I'm really researching is:

Is the sky really falling? Do nothing is my usual approach.
What protection solution is best? Active switching like Raychem tranzorbs or passive mov's or a combo?

If this topic creates any sizzle I'll post the outcome. The results may be shocking.


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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-18-2004, 10:50 AM   #2
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Re: Lightning!

You want dual protection: whole house at the entry and unit protection at each expensive device.

Whole house protection can be had for about $300 for the parts plus labor, which is usually about 4 hours.

Since surges can be instigated within the system, either by a lightening surge close to your house or even a malfunctioning appliance, you should also protect each device that costs more than $50 or so. I have both surge strips and single plug protectors. The latter are about the size of an icecube and are good for refrigerators and small appliances.

My computer, tv's and tivo's are connected to battery backed up surge protection. The tv's bypass the batteries as they'd drain them in about 30 seconds in the event of a power fail.

We dont get a lot of lightning here, but we have very regular and annoying powerfails and surges. When we have a full outage I usually turn off the main breakers and wait until I see lights on elsewhere before turning them back on.

So far my losses have been limited to a really nice coffeemaker that my wife hated, so it sort of worked out.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-18-2004, 04:36 PM   #3
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Re: Lightning!

You're right TH. I hadn't thought about battery back up for tvss. Maybe even a small UPS for the pc system unit.

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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-18-2004, 05:02 PM   #4
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Re: Lightning!

Keep your eye on fatwallet.com and in your local office supply stores clearance centers (staples, officemax, officedepot). I regulary get APC and belkin units for $10-30 depending on features and how "deep" a deal you're willing to string together.

Theres an APC unit available at officedepot now, if you buy it online and apply an online coupon to it, then go pick it up in-store (so the rebate applies), its $30 for a nice unit

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/mess...y&keyword1=ups
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 04:09 AM   #5
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Re: Lightning!

Fatwallet.com is a new one for me. Talk about "shop till you drop" . I could be here all day (in NY thisweek).
News keeps coming in from the beach (Carolina Beach, NC). Continuing damage reports. Lifeguard and nearby beach bunny needed medical attention following lightning strike "just a few feet away". Both are fine. Weather at the time was described as "mostly cloudy".

Hmmm what do I need now? How about a sunscreen with a built in surge suppressor. Another million dollar idea? Can you name that product?


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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 10:41 AM   #6
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Re: Lightning!

If there is a lot of lightning in your area, you might also consider a lightning rod on the top of your house to protect the building itself.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 11:09 AM   #7
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Re: Lightning!

Spending too much time on fatwallet can make your wallet skinny. I do however find some great bargains but usually restrict visiting to when I want to buy something. The 'coupon code' threads are worth their weight in gold.

I think with lightning rods you need a bunch of them...I think each one offers a 'cone' of protection from the tip of the rod down to about a 15' circle base at the ground level. When I've seen houses with full lightning arrestors, a 1500 sq ft single story home had about 8 of them, and a larger 2 story house had about 12. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Shocking in fact. Possibly electrifying.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 04:33 PM   #8
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Re: Lightning!

Positively spooky and "psycho-sh". I can see that old
house on a hill in my mind's eye right now.

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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 05:46 PM   #9
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Re: Lightning!

More discovered damage....Telephone interface cover on the south side of the building was blown off and a couple of the twisted pairs appear fused or melted.

Didn' t some of those old lightning rods have a blue glass ball half way down the rod? Very Addams Family!

Starting to look like a homeowners claim.


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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 05:51 PM   #10
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Re: Lightning!

Being left handed and INTJ - this thread has a slight 'pyscho -ish" bent - wherein we've got to go buy 'stuff' to help take of the stuff we have. Heh, heh ? will stuff ever become self replicating - expanding by itself without our help. I do stumble across stuff where I/she cannot remember where/when we got it. Usually when cleaning out an area to make a place to store stuff not ready to be tossed yet. I've got a storage shed with boxes of electrical, plumbing, auto, garden, fishing, stuff - some of which is very mysterious.

Back to the thread - plenty of lightning here - but in 25 yrs only fried one surge protector. Plenty of power surges/ outages as we're on a 'country wire' along the highway. Power line from the highway has special grounding wires each end. Delicate or rugged aplliance - all get surge protectors - the el cheapo Wal Mart type.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 06:10 PM   #11
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Re: Lightning!

Yes, I've had to replace the batteries in the UPS's I bought to protect the computer I use to look up the news I used to get from a 35c piece of paper someone left in my driveway every morning.

:P
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-19-2004, 07:39 PM   #12
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Re: Lightning!

Quote:
Didn' t some of those old lightning rods have a blue glass ball half way down the rod? Very Addams Family!

BUM
Sure did! Many farm houses in the midwest had them for years and years. Eventually most were stripped off in reroofing jobs. I'd bet they've become an Ebay collector item by now.

The cone of protection from a grounded vertical is a cone that extends out and downwards 45 degrees from the top of the vertical. Rotate that 45 degree line around the vertical axis, and you have the cone. Simple, actually, as it is the shortest distance between two points. Think of a vector downwards from the sky at any angle. Anything within the 45 degree cone is protected, as the closest point will be either the top of the vertical, or the base of the cone, wherever that falls.

Some other things that can get damaged: Wired-in microwave oven, spark ignition module on an older gas furnace, or the big circuit board on todays 80% and greater AFUE gas furnaces. The Government allows only 80% and greater efficiency gas furnaces to be sold and installed in the USA for some years now. Some of those variable blower speed, two stage gas valve furnaces have real expensive control boards. Real expensive!

In a previous house, lightning struck close to our drop wire. Got the spark module ($100 replacement part, circa 1987 prices, had to drive around to find one), and battery backup sump pump controller board. And a few other cheap things not worth mentioning.
In this house, a hit got the built-in microwave. I'd never find another microwave to fit, as its part of a wall oven setup. Pulled it out, found the MOV's had done their job and died, taking the series glass fuse with it. Got new higher-joule MOV's from Radioshack with the same clamping voltage, and hunted all over to find the special fuse. Finally found them. And then 2 weeks later, walking through Home Depot, hanging on a peg, were the microwave fuses! Duh!

Years ago, I used to design a lot of stuff and used Tranzorbs. IIRC, they were a super zener, that could take a bigger pulse, and when they overloaded, they were guaranteed to go shorted, rather than open, to protect the load. They had a sharp knee, and fast response.

I looked into adding a whole house protector into the breaker box some years ago. At that time, I didn't think a wired-in one would fit without trying to redress all of the branch wiring on one side to get it to fit. Figured I'd need to add an aux box to put it in, and, well... just never got around to it.

BTW, I can't think of any home appliance that could generate a damaging "surge" by itself. It would need to be a reactive element, with low impedance to be able to lift up the loaded AC line or all branch circuits. The only inductive element close that I can think of is a 5 ton AC compressor motor, but have never seen a failure of that type.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-20-2004, 04:11 AM   #13
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Re: Lightning!

Your comments are right on Telly. THanks. A friend of mine is still in the teanzorb biz. He specializes in hi end stereo speaker protection but I think he told me he "Zorb'ed" his house years ago.

There are some new MOV packaging schemes that are placed in an unused circuit breaker slot (assuming you have space on the panel). I'm checking that as well.

Years ago I put a Whole house surge protector on my panel in NY. No damage since. The 2 LEDs are still lit. Who knows? Storms in NY are fewer than the Coastal USA Thunderstorm Zone (Virginia to Texas).

IF time permits I'll break stride and instead of haunting Lowes and HD, I'll check with a local electrical supply store and see what they have.


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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-20-2004, 11:01 AM   #14
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Re: Lightning!

Telly - I've heard, but not seen, of refrigerators and air conditioners malfunctioning and creating a surge. Probably a lot of guessing going on there though.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-20-2004, 02:38 PM   #15
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Re: Lightning!

Quote:
I've heard, but not seen, of refrigerators and air conditioners malfunctioning and creating a surge. Probably a lot of guessing going on there though.
Wouldn't that have to be gaussing?
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-20-2004, 09:55 PM   #16
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Re: Lightning!

beats gassing.
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-21-2004, 04:12 AM   #17
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Re: Lightning!

Still researching... experts abound. But the honest among them admit that lightning cant be arrested, or suppressed but can be shunted (clamped) to ground most of the time. These whole house products can protect most single link appliances. Two link appliances (stuff that not only plugs in the wall but also connect to telephone, coax, and dont forget antennas) need additional help. These include TVs, PCs, Gar. Door Openers, faxes, cordless phones.

For the house, this could be a good choice

http://www.redivoltmfg.com/main/product-p-h.asp

More info still being gathered. Entire solution will be installed and posted hopefully before the next storm.


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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-21-2004, 05:50 AM   #18
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Re: Lightning!

1995 - This may be a tall tale - but he swears it's true - his house in a subdivision(cable, telephone, power, the usual) - got a lighning strike via a tree in the yard, Jumped from the tree to metal gutters around the roof - zapped a PC, TV, and cordless phone in one end of the house. All were 'off' at the time. Had surge cords to each. Is that even possible?
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Re: Lightning!
Old 07-21-2004, 06:02 PM   #19
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Re: Lightning!

Yep its possible... even likely. Note unclemick that those items you listed above are "2 link" devices. The electric lines may be protected but the phone and coax (or antenna) connections to those devices are still vulnerable.


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Re: Lightning!
Old 03-28-2005, 03:10 AM   #20
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Re: Lightning!

Last year we suffered considerable lightning damage to electrical and electronic systems. I promised to post the solution and results.

I installed a C-H CHSPmax ($20 on ebay). It easily mounted to the outside of the panel box and gets wired (preferably) to a dedicated 15 amp breaker. It also has connections for CATV and telephone circuits which we not so easily installed because those services are not located near the panel box. Stand alone suppressors can be added for the cable line and telephone line.

Bottom line...cheap insurance for expensive stuff.

http://ceenews.com/mag/electric_may_...s_residential/
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