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Lightning - got our attention
Old 07-29-2009, 01:02 PM   #1
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Lightning - got our attention

Yesterday at about 6:30 pm we lost power in our house, but in a weird way: some outlets were live, some were delivering only 70 volts and random appliances would work then not work. Others seemed to come to life spontaneously for a few minutes, then fade to black. There had been severe thunder showers a few hours before.

So I cut out all the breakers and we called the power company. The electrician confirmed that our entire electric panel was zapped. The culprit seemed to be one of our two air conditioners which was also zapped. Pool pump was very hot to the touch. I'm already thinking that I am looking at 10s of thousands of dollars.

This morning we have the panel replaced with new. The A/C seems to be OK after replacing one of the contacts. Pump is OK. Everyone advices us to be on the look-out for weird appliance behavior, esp if it has electronics in it. We're supposed to save any parts we replace for insurance purposes.

This strike was 20 feet from our kitchen. But all is now well, it seems.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:08 PM   #2
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Rich, if you didn't sustain any more damage than what you described, you are very lucky.

Lightning can do very strange things to home wiring and appliances. A friend's house in the Dallas area was stuck a few years ago and did severe damage to his appliances, wiring - even blew a hole in the wall of his house. He spent thousands rewiring the entire structure and replacing all his appliances and a/c system.

By contrast, we were struck many years ago when we lived in Kansas. It destroyed the wiring harness and controls to our washer and dryer (melted the dryer cord in two), but that's all.
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:18 PM   #3
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Rich, if you didn't sustain any more damage than what you described, you are very lucky.

.
Yep, that's for sure. DW and I were hit by lightning while sitting in the screenhouse on our patio two years ago. Actually, the lightning hit a mature tree about 20' from the screenhouse and we got secondary effects. I have a small scar on my heel where I got zapped. DW, a cute little scar on her butt (sorry she says no pics). We both had some numbness in various body parts for some minutes afterwards.

The only physical damage was from bark exploding off the tree which trashed the screenhouse and littered the patio. Oh yeah, the brick edging around the tree which formed a flower bed was blown out of the ground too with some of the bricks landing several feet away from their origin. Our next door neighbor lost a TV and had damage to some applicances. But no indoor damage for us.

Rich - sure glad you and your DW weren't involved directly with the strike. Have fun with the insurance adjustors!
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:21 PM   #4
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I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. At 6AM, lightning struck the power pole about 100 ft. from our house.

We lost 2 computers (one new), the printer, the wireless network, modem, all the dsl filters, the surge protector, clock radio, the new tv (the old one is just fine), all the cordless phones (the old Ma Bell corded phone with some of the buttons not working came through OK - the 9 and the 1 still work)

The electronics in the kitchen range were scrambled, so no oven. When I cycled the breaker several days later, it rebooted.

All in all, just under $1k damage (with a $1k deductable on homeowner's insurance, of course.)

We bought fancy new surge protectors with equipment guarantees, but don't expect any more lightning until the warrantee is up.
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:07 PM   #5
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Lightning rods are very common here in newer construction and in older homes that have been struck once. I've heard every advice about them you can imagine: that they are imperative and will almost surely save your life and home all the way down to "save your money" because 99.99% of the time they do nothing.

Might check it out. Anyone know about this?
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:07 PM   #6
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Rich,
In a previous post I thought you'd mentioned that you had one of those whole-house filters/surge suppressors (supplied by TECO?). If so, did that help at all? Does the warranty on the device cover any of your losses?

Glad to hear you and the family are OK.
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:13 PM   #7
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Good grief y'all.... Rich..you are very lucky.

A few months ago during a thunderstorm, our electricity went off and on a couple of times. The power was on when we went to bed and everything seemed fine. I turned the fan on that was sitting on top of my nightstand and it was whirling so fast I thought it was going to take off! Something was definitely wrong.

We were getting power surges.

DH called the electric co and was told they would check it out. We unplugged what we could, then kept our fingers crossed. They came out at 2 a.m. and fixed the transformer unit. Luckily we did not incur any damage.

This transformer unit sits between our house and our neighbor's house. One was hit by a car a few years ago and had to be replaced. When I got home today I noticed the unit had been scraped again. Poor little fellow...
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:18 PM   #8
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Lightening is so scary . It knocked out my whole sprinkler system a few years ago and last year my microwave and dishwasher panels were ruined from a surge . Glad to hear you are okay ! Appliances can always be replaced .
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:25 PM   #9
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I have lost an appliance or two, and my mother almost lost a TV, but the surge protector decided to melt and not send the electricity its way...

The funniest story I have heard about lightning is an old work mate... he said he had just come in the door and was reaching down to pet his cat... lightning hit the corner of his house... went to his front door, came 'through' somewhere and hit him in his butt.... said it threw him about 10 feet and singed the cat hair.... the cat would not come out from the closet for a month and never did like to be near him again....

The corner of his house was 'blown off'...


Glad to hear nobody got hurt.... the rest is stuff that can be replaced, even if it does cost money you were not planning on spending...
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:32 PM   #10
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The funniest story I have heard about lightning is an old work mate... he said he had just come in the door and was reaching down to pet his cat... lightning hit the corner of his house... went to his front door, came 'through' somewhere and hit him in his butt.... said it threw him about 10 feet and singed the cat hair.... the cat would not come out from the closet for a month and never did like to be near him again....

The corner of his house was 'blown off'...
Do you call him Sparky?
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:44 PM   #11
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Rich
So sorry to hear about your loss. I'm sure your homeowners insurance will cover lightning strike losses, though you will be out the deductible. Last year we had $40k of loss from a broken water line inside our home, and the insurance covered it all except the deductible and DW's add ons (great opportunity to do those long awaited upgrades )

As others have said, you're lucky to not have suffered more damage, such as the home catching fire. Or, if you had been on a land phone line, you could have been zapped.

The appliances may operate in weird ways because their electronic controls may be only partially functioning. Be sure to do a thorough checkout for insurance purposes.

Though my home has never been hit, two of my boats have, and it's not pretty.
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Old 07-29-2009, 03:55 PM   #12
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Rich,
In a previous post I thought you'd mentioned that you had one of those whole-house filters/surge suppressors (supplied by TECO?). If so, did that help at all? Does the warranty on the device cover any of your losses?

Glad to hear you and the family are OK.
Sam, that was for my motorhome. I'm happier than ever to have it now.
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Old 07-29-2009, 05:40 PM   #13
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My goodness, Rich, you are lucky not to be the Dr. RichBurger!
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Old 07-29-2009, 06:40 PM   #14
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My goodness, Rich, you are lucky not to be the Dr. RichBurger!
Yes, I really got a charge out of this experience.
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:57 PM   #15
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I'm not convinced about the effectivness of the TECO surge protector. Remember it's only a surge protector and true, some surges are caused by lightening. I think the surge protector cost $75 to install and you have a rental charge of about $6 per month. However, TECO has a disclaimer that it will not prevent a lightening strike. I had an incident last year similar to this and TECO's had their subcontractor come out. They replaced the surge protector and took it for analysis. A week later I get a letter saying they could not find anything wrong with the surge protector, nothing had touched it. What to do?? Their out is the disclaimer that nothing will stop a lightening strike. Rich, consider yourselves lucky.
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:15 PM   #16
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Lightning rods are very common here in newer construction and in older homes that have been struck once. I've heard every advice about them you can imagine: that they are imperative and will almost surely save your life and home all the way down to "save your money" because 99.99% of the time they do nothing.

Might check it out. Anyone know about this?
I'm glad you are ok!

A house across from my brother's house - out in the serious suburbs - was struck by lightning while the owners were on vacation and burned to the ground.

When they rebuilt, there were 2 lightning rods - one on the main roof, and one on a shorter wing.

ta,
mew

(who is adding another thing to the list to check when looking for a new place... )
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:24 PM   #17
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About 30 minutes ago I was sitting in my mom's drive way waiting for the rain to let up when lightning started popping all around. I took it to the house and then called her, telling her to keep my dog for the night. The dog will be happy as she gets more treats over there anyway. I don't care for lightning.
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:44 PM   #18
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So I cut out all the breakers and we called the power company. The electrician confirmed that our entire electric panel was zapped. The culprit seemed to be one of our two air conditioners which was also zapped. Pool pump was very hot to the touch. I'm already thinking that I am looking at 10s of thousands of dollars.
This morning we have the panel replaced with new.
This strike was 20 feet from our kitchen. But all is now well, it seems.
Rich, I know this is a technical question for which you may not have the answer at hand, but while I can't tell a brachiole from an arteriole I do have some practical personal experience with high-voltage explosions discharges.

What exactly was "zapped"? Was it the main breaker to the house, or was it the distribution panel in the garage? (Maybe some systems combine the main breaker and the distribution panel.) Was it the bus bars in the distribution panel, or was a ground wire/rod melted? Or was the damage to individual breakers in the distribution panel?

Do you happen to have any photos?

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Rich,
In a previous post I thought you'd mentioned that you had one of those whole-house filters/surge suppressors (supplied by TECO?). If so, did that help at all? Does the warranty on the device cover any of your losses?
Glad to hear you and the family are OK.
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Sam, that was for my motorhome. I'm happier than ever to have it now.
Yeah, I was wondering that too. As long as the electrician's in the panel, are you thinking about getting a whole-house surge suppressor? I don't know how well that performs against the proximity of the lightning strike that you had, but it would certainly protect from a blown transformer...
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Old 07-29-2009, 10:05 PM   #19
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Thanks for the replies.

Nords, best anyone can figure, the A/C took the hit; a mechanical contact of some sort was damaged and the surge went to the main panel on the side of the house, where the main breaker blew, probably protecting from worse damaage. But somewhere during all that microsecond the circuits and selected appliances become psychotic. For example, a lamp which was in a "dead" wall plug turned itself back on at about 4 am, then promptly died again. Poltergeist.

The power company here is happy to sell you a surge suppressor for a couple hundred up front, then a $9 monthly fee. I might be tempted if we didn't plan on downsizing within a year or so, and may yet consider it if I can take with. My electrician contacts seem to think it is very helpful for certain types of surge circumstances and useless in others, so the overall protection is pretty variable. I know nothing about them myself.

So far the damage is up to about $1100, cheap in context and my deductible is $2500, so barring new problems yet to emerge, we'll just eat it.
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Old 07-30-2009, 01:04 AM   #20
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Nords, best anyone can figure, the A/C took the hit; a mechanical contact of some sort was damaged and the surge went to the main panel on the side of the house, where the main breaker blew, probably protecting from worse damaage. But somewhere during all that microsecond the circuits and selected appliances become psychotic. For example, a lamp which was in a "dead" wall plug turned itself back on at about 4 am, then promptly died again. Poltergeist.
The power company here is happy to sell you a surge suppressor for a couple hundred up front, then a $9 monthly fee. I might be tempted if we didn't plan on downsizing within a year or so, and may yet consider it if I can take with. My electrician contacts seem to think it is very helpful for certain types of surge circumstances and useless in others, so the overall protection is pretty variable. I know nothing about them myself.
Yikes-- short of replacing a lot of wiring (or checking it out with expensive equipment) I don't know how to tell that everything is OK again. But anything with a microprocessor in it probably just stops working.

I thought a whole-house surge suppressor was supposed to work better than that, but maybe not against a lightning strike. I guess if I was selling a house I wouldn't want to advertise that it had a whole-house surge suppressor. "Golly, why'd you put in one of those?" "Uh..."

Perhaps a lightning rod would have encouraged the lightning strike to go down to ground through it instead of through your A/C. OTOH that much surge going through even a lightning rod might also have heated the roof brackets to its flash point, too.

Sounds like you could have spent a lot more money with no better or even worse results. Yikes again.
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