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leungw 04-26-2010 11:22 AM

Lights/Outlets No Longer Work After Thunderstorm

We have a few lights and outlets that no longer work after a big thunderstorm. I was home at the time when one of the lightning hit very close by. All the 15amp breakers tripped. I went to the main panel to reset all the breakers, but still some of the lights/outlets are not working. I don't know if they are on the same circuit or not. And the lack of labeling in the main panel is not helping either. So far, I have made sure that all the breakers are in the "on" position and checked/reset all GFCI outlets.

I thought one of the breakers might have been damaged. So I turned them off one at a time and checked the lights around the house. Each time the "off" breaker did turn something off.

Any other things I should be checking?

Thanks in advance.


fabrk8r 04-26-2010 11:30 AM

Did you check the main disconnect?

fabrk8r 04-26-2010 11:32 AM

I re-read your post and see that you did have some working after resetting the breakers, so it wouldn't be the main.

Do you see any burn marks or smell anything odd in the breaker panel?

leungw 04-26-2010 11:38 AM

Hello fabrk8r,

Thanks for taking time to reply. I did smell something burning when the lightning hit, but couldn't find out exactly where the smell was coming from. When I went to put the tripped breakers back on, I did not notice any smell coming from the panel.


joed 04-26-2010 11:40 AM

Are you sure there is not a GFCI somewhere? Where are the receptacles located?

leungw 04-26-2010 11:50 AM

Hello Joed,

Thanks for replying.

The locations:

1. two of the outlets in living room, on adjacent walls
2. two of the outlets in family room, on adjacent walls, near living room
3. one of the outlets in my son's bedroom, directly above family room
4. one of the outlets in guest room, directly above family room
5. two of the outlets in master bedroom
6. one light in walk-in closet in master bedroom
7. both light and fan in master bathroom

Yes, I am quite sure that I checked all the GFCI outlets. All the outlets in all the bathrooms and kitchen are working.


fabrk8r 04-26-2010 11:55 AM

Do you have any outside receptacles?

HooKooDooKu 04-26-2010 12:04 PM

If I'm understanding you correctly, only SOME of the outlets on a given circuit are not working. That combined with circuit breakers tripping sounds like you might have sustained a lightning strike. I'm thinking that's where fabrk8r is going with asking about outside outlets. Even if you don't have any exposed outside outlets, you most likely have some outside lights that might have been a path for lightning to get in the house (that's what happened to an apartment we used to live in).

I would suggest cutting power to one of the rooms, say master bedroom, and remove the coverplate from one of the outlets that is not working and see if you can find some obvious damage. The other thing to do is check your outdoor outlets and lights and any other metal things connected to the house looking for a possible entry point for a lightning strike. Even if the main bolt of a lightning strike didn't hit your house, there is the possibility that one of the side forks of a lightning strike did.

leungw 04-26-2010 12:16 PM

fabrk8r, yes. There is one outlet outside near the front door, and one near the AC unit in the back.

HooKooDooKu, thanks. I will check the outlets for damage.
I already had to replace the phone line from the NID to the house. The main coax splitter for cable TV died. My cable modem and router both died. Directv receiver still says no signal found. Sigh....

fabrk8r 04-26-2010 12:22 PM

If the outside receptacles are GFCI, make sure they are reset and then recheck the outlets in the house that weren't working previously.

joed 04-26-2010 05:52 PM

None of those circuits are normally GFCI. So I will agree GFCI is probably not the problem.
I would start opening the dead outlets. Start with the ones closest to the panel. Problem could be in working devices as well. Wires are usually installed a sequential order. Try to figure out where the next closest device is to the panel that could possibly feed the dead circuits and check it out as well.

I don't like the burning smell you describe. I have never seen lightning damage but it can be very unpredictable. There could be major unseen damage. This might be worth an insurance claim. The entire house could need to be rewired.

jbfan 04-26-2010 06:03 PM

Last strike close to my house took out all my gfci's, my phone, my broiler element, my cable and 3 tries on my stepson's car, and the big tree 100 foot from the house.

oh'mike 04-26-2010 06:35 PM

You have lost enough circuits to suggest that the house may have lost one leg of the power coming into the box.

Open your panel (if you feel safe doing this) and test the two leads going into the main breaker,

Your house actually has two different 110 lines powering the box--test each line to a neutral -each should read 110 volts.

then test the two lines to each other--it should read 220 volts

If they are o.k. test the output of each breaker---if they are o.k.

using the tester --got o the 'bad' outlets--test the power(the smaller slot) to the neutral(larger slot)--then test the power to a ground-(the box or cover plate screw)

If you get a 110 reading off the ground but not the neutral slot --you know the neutral is faulty.

O.K. sparkies--Have I steered him right?---Mike---

AllanJ 04-26-2010 09:36 PM

Have you been able to identify:
1. Circuits where everything (receptacles, lights) still works?
2. Circuits where nothing works?
3. Circuits where some things work and some things don't?

If you lost one of the two power legs, then you would have all the dead circuits arranged in some pattern on the panel, for example all the odd rows of breakers.

joed 04-27-2010 08:31 AM

The OP has stated

So I turned them off one at a time and checked the lights around the house. Each time the "off" breaker did turn something off.
It appears only partial circuits are out not multiple entire circuits.

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