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Old 06-07-2008, 04:12 PM   #1
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


A few days ago there was a large storm that came through and lighting struck close to our house. We found a tree in the neighbors yard behind us that has a rather large branch that was taken out by the storm, we suspect the lighting hit that tree. The tree is just the other side of a metal fence which is the property line, and the fence is sorta in a horse shoe shape coming up along the sides of the yard and meeting up with the house. The main breaker in the panel was tripped, as well as the sub panel breaker in the main panel. There is a sub panel I installed in the back yard in between the A/C unit and the supply which includes a service disconnect thats firmly attached to the house (no fuses or OCPD) sub panel provides power to the A/C and a GFI outlet for the water fountain, and a 20 amp twistlock (in a weather proof box).

The storm killed a motherboard in one of the computers upstairs that is plugged into an outlet on the back wall, a network card in the garage computer, also plugged into the back wall, and a printer jet direct card, plugged into a raceway that runs along the back wall, although the printer is plugged in on an interior wall where the raceway starts. I suspect the lighting somehow took out the subpanel which tripped both the main breakers (sub panel and mains).

Anyone have any ideas what can be done to prevent electronic damage like this in the future? Storm took out the 3 ports these devices were plugged into on my 48 port Cisco switch, which is mounted in a rack and on a UPS (though the batteries are basically dead, it should still help prevent line surges on the AC line). I was thinking about running a ground rod into the ground and running it into the sub panel in the back yard, even though its attached to the house and its not apart of an "out building". Any idea if this would help?

I have since replaced the computer upstairs, and put it on a UPS since its in the house and I had a spare UPS, though the garage PC is still not networked and don't really want to put it on a nice ups, since its a garage and it would get dirty real quick. Ports on the switch aren't coming back, but I don't need all 48 ports anyway (plus I have the same switch in a 24 port version directly below it).

I do have a panel mounted whole house surge protector (not currently installed) but I plan on putting that in this weekend. Though given the circumstances, I don't know that it would have done anything.

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Old 06-07-2008, 04:24 PM   #2
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Is your elec service properly grounded?

The ground rods or ufer are supposed to give the lightning a safe route to the ground.

Even if everything is done properly, that is a LOT of current to deal with and it seems to me that damage is likely.

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Old 06-07-2008, 05:01 PM   #3
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


I have installed a "whole house" surge protector in my main panel supposedly to help prevent such things, but it has yet to be tested by a lightning strike, so I don't know about it.
You might check into those, and consult a pro electrician, which you need to do anyway.
Good Luck!
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:43 PM   #4
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


I just wired up the whole house surge protector this afternoon, i've had it for a while just sitting around and never got around to hooking it up. I know that there is a solid ground wire direct from the main panel to the water main, and is jumpered over the meter. I believe there is a ground rod outside the main panel, but I have no idea how far down it actually goes. I was thinking on driving a rod by the sub panel in the back yard, possibly driving a new one near the main panel. Lightning didn't strike the house, it was a tree near the back property line on the neighbors behind us property. Also there is a chain link fence that is about 5 feet from the tree and runs and just about touches the house on both sides (with metal siding). Its pretty rare to get a lightening strike that close to the house, so I am wondering if I should just drive the two ground rods and leave it at that.
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Old 06-09-2008, 10:07 AM   #5
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Lightning is powerful and strange. You can have perfect grounding and surge suppressor but you still could loose things. The surge could come down the phone or cable lines. Even if it comes down the power line it could overwelm the suppressor.
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Old 06-09-2008, 07:23 PM   #6
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Ok, I was out doing some yard work the other day and was looking around the main service panel, and I don't seem to find a ground rod (I was pretty sure there was at least a ground rod there; I know that the panel is grounded to the water pipe). So I guess first thing to do would be to drive an 8 foot ground rod next to the main panel. Would a 1/2" rod be ok, or it it advisable to drive a 5/8" rod? I have plenty of #6 insulated green grounding wire to tie it into the main panel, so thats not a concern (copper is expensive). Also, we have underground power to the house, which comes from the front yard and out to the street, my guess would be that its acceptable to drive a rod anywhere behind the service entrance to the meter (since there should be no reason it would run to the backyard and then back to the panel, right?). I know the proper thing to do would be to have the electric company come out and mark where the lines are, but is there an easier way? I'd just want to drive the ground rod and be done with it.
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:25 PM   #7
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Quote:
I know that the panel is grounded to the water pipe
More than likely, the water pipe is bonded to the panel.



Quote:
Would a 1/2" rod be ok, or it it advisable to drive a 5/8" rod?
2, 1/2" rods, 6" apart


Quote:
my guess would be that its acceptable to drive a rod anywhere behind the service entrance to the meter
The ground rods go to the service. In MY area, that is ouside, at the disconnect just beyond the meter. In other areas they put the disconnect inside and I believe that is where you land the ground wire. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

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I know the proper thing to do would be to have the electric company come out and mark where the lines are, but is there an easier way? I'd just want to drive the ground rod and be done with it.

Do you feel lucky? How hard is it to dial the phone?

Also be aware of sewer lines, gas lines and telco/cable.
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:36 PM   #8
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


What I meant by putting the ground rod behind the service entrance was physically locating it on the other side of the meter from where it enters from the front yard. Telco cable it next to the service on the front side, and cable is towards the street by another 5 feet or so. Sewer and water enter the front middle of the house, and gas is on the opposite end of the house from the electric meter. My service disconnect is a mains panel just inside the garage behind the meter. If using a 1/2" rod requires me to drive two, I think I will just get the 5/8" rod then instead.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:35 AM   #9
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


So I finally went and bought a 8' 5/8" grounding rod at home depot the other day, and went and put it in the ground about 2 feet from the service entrance. The first 4 feet or so went in really easily by just pushing it into the ground, had to use a hammer for the last couple feet. Still need to determine the best way to enter the main panel in the garage. I have plenty of insulated green 6 gauge stranded wire, and total distance from the rod to the panel bus bar will be less than 8 feet, probably closer to 6; just depends how I have to run the wire. I did notice that the telco disconnect box has a ground wire attached to it from the main panel, I was kinda surprised to see that (in that there was no ground rod installed).
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:15 AM   #10
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Make sure all ground rods on the premises are bonded together. Telephone, electric, antenna, well casing if you have one, and metal water pipe coming in from underground.

Lightning travels through the ground from where it strikes, in gradients. Dropping in voltage as it goes. So a ground rod for say the telephone on one side of the house could be thousands of volts different from the electric service ground rod on the other side of the house, if they are not bonded together. That voltage is going to try to equalize by flowing through your circuits and equipment.
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Old 06-20-2008, 02:25 PM   #11
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Yeah the phone and water pipe are currently bonded at the main panel, and soon the ground rod will be too. Just need to determine the best way to get the 6 gauge wire into the garage, probably going to enlarge the hole that the telephone ground wire enters through.
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Old 06-20-2008, 06:40 PM   #12
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


If I'm around during a storm and if I can help it I turn off my computers and unplug them. Better safe then sorry.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:30 PM   #13
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


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Originally Posted by theatretch85 View Post
Yeah the phone and water pipe are currently bonded at the main panel, and soon the ground rod will be too. Just need to determine the best way to get the 6 gauge wire into the garage, probably going to enlarge the hole that the telephone ground wire enters through.
If your garage has a equipment grounding conductor, or if the ground rod is bonded to the neutral, you are already bonded there.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:32 PM   #14
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


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If I'm around during a storm and if I can help it I turn off my computers and unplug them. Better safe then sorry.
I do the same. It's those times when we are not around, or are sleeping that presents the problem. I live in the middle of an oak woods and strikes nearby are very common.
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Old 06-21-2008, 09:12 AM   #15
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Lightning stirke, breakers tripped...


Right now all I have is a ground rod in the ground, no wire attached. My preference would be to unplug the equipment as well, however when this particular storm happened, I was at work. This was probably the one and only storm that lighting has struck this close to the house, we get thunderstorms on occasion but they never strike this close!

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