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Old 07-14-2011, 02:12 PM   #1
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Lightning Strike

I'm an Electrical/Computer Engineer, but my experience with high voltage systems is limited. Yesterday while I was at work, my wife called me in a panic and said there was an explosion either right outside or inside our house. She said everything shook, pictures fell off the wall, the fire alarms went off (for about 30 seconds), and there was extremely loud noise accompanied by a bright flash. After a describing all of this too me, she finally ended with, "Maybe it was lightning?".

When I got home, I found that half of our circuit breakers were tripped, all the GFCI's were tripped, and most of our video equipment was toast, despite most of it being on surge protectors. Lots of little stuff is toast as well, but in the end, I doubt the total damage to the electronics alone will be much over my insurance deductible. What a mess.

Last night, however, while turning off the lights, I noticed that there were scorch marks around the screws on the outlet and light switch covers. I started checking others, and noticed the same thing on several more, all either around the screw holes or around the ground of the sockets. This has me quite worried. What are the potential effects on the house's wiring? Could this type of incident damage the wiring making it unsafe?

I don't know if the lightning struck us directly or struck nearby, but based on the extent of the damage, and the fact that the neighbors weren't affected in the same way (they all heard it, but no damage), I'm betting it hit the house. If so, I'm worried it came in through the roof and hit Romex somewhere in the attic, damaging it.

Has anyone experienced a similar incident? To what extent, if any, was the damage to the house's electrical system?


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Old 07-14-2011, 02:22 PM   #2
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Lightning Strike

Added a photo of the scorch marks around the screws. There are several outlet/light switch covers like this.
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Old 07-14-2011, 02:33 PM   #3
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Lightning Strike

If breakers tripped, gfci tripped, and electrionics were damaged, then the wiring could be damaged.

A lighting surge can burn off the insulation on the wires.

I had lighting hit a tree 50 feet from my house and it tripped every gfci, took out my modem, phone, broiler, and blew up 3 tires on my car!
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Old 07-14-2011, 03:13 PM   #4
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Lightning Strike

Holy... Yeah, that looks like the result of a pretty direct lightning strike.

I'm afraid that what comes next probably won't be cheap. Do you have homeowner's insurance? I think your best bet is to have an electrician in to do a thorough inspection and test all your wiring with a megger to see if the insulation is compromised.

I just re-read your post and saw that you do have insurance, so maybe you should try and get a couple electrical contractors to bid on inspecting and testing your wiring, and decide if that plus your fried electronics is worth making an insurance claim.
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Old 07-14-2011, 03:44 PM   #5
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Lightning Strike

I don't know how or why you believe that its below the insurance claim threshold, damage like that I am sure has effected all you appliances to.

When its all said and done there is usually more said than done
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Old 07-14-2011, 05:14 PM   #6
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Lightning Strike

The only proper way to test the cabling is a test called a megger test. Everything MUST be disconnected from the wiring, then a megger is connected to the cables. It applies 1000's volts at very low current to test for insulation breakdown.
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Old 07-14-2011, 05:29 PM   #7
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Lightning Strike

Don't forget to contact your insurance agent before you get too far into this..
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:33 PM   #8
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Lightning Strike

Originally Posted by joed View Post
The only proper way to test the cabling is a test called a megger test. Everything MUST be disconnected from the wiring, then a megger is connected to the cables. It applies 1000's volts at very low current to test for insulation breakdown.
I'll second this one.

A megger test will reveal wiring that has been compromised but still looks good. There is no other way to be sure.

As a side note, very few residential electricians will have a megger or even know what it is, much less how to use it. You'll likely need to get a commercial or industrial company, or better yet, a company that specializes in such tests.
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Old 07-15-2011, 01:17 AM   #9
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Lightning Strike

That's incredible.....you should be able to make a claim against your A/V equipment against the manufacturer of your surge protectors (if they came with coverage) but it sounds like you may need to do some heavy rewiring, so the insurance route is probably best!

Last edited by design_lover13; 07-15-2011 at 01:34 AM.
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