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Struck by lightning

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Bill Nye
Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
My cousins house sets way back from the road. I think there are 5 or 6 telephone poles from the street. Since 1996 I have replaced either six or seven Tekmar/Burnham EC5000 controls.

Symptoms?, same as last time she says, all the lights are lit and no hot water. At number 4 or 5 I told them I would NOT replace another until electrician installed a surge suppressor. Well he put in a plug and receptacle and told them to unplug when storm is coming. Another one got killed I did away with plug and electrician installed suppressor at panel.

This one died in storm thurs/fri early AM. The insurance will not pay anymore , threatened to drop them if they make another claim. They are not rich, working class just like us. At $500 a pop how can I justify replacing technology? At first I said look how much you save on fuel? $1500 - 2000 later they can buy a hell of a lot of fuel.

What can I do. I replaced it tonight , just got home. I suppose I will change the rtu's to t-stats and install a 4 zone relay and do away with reset. It hurts because I designed the baseboard to heat w/130° water and it was first or second house I did with tekmar that was not just a retrofit.

I have asked about this same job every time it has happened. I thank you , anyone who responded in the past, but I ask help again What should I do? I recall something about another ground from panel via "braided" wire. any other thoughts? I suggest lightning rod system but after paying me for another control they are broke, yeah and they just got back from a mini vacation so things are tight.

Comments

  • Dave Stroman
    Dave Stroman Member Posts: 766
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    How about one of those battery backups that you see with computers. I just bought one for about 40 bucks. It has $50,000 lifetime connected equipment protection.

    Dave in Denver

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • ScottMP
    ScottMP Member Posts: 5,884
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    thats what I was thinking

    Try a good computer surge suppressor.

    Worth the try.

    Scott
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
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    just curious

    Have you checked to verify this is not a brown out situation? Or a grounding issue? It seem's odd that one house could get hit everytime without some other type of damage to it. Is it just this control that is frying and nothing else?
    On that note, It would not be that expensive to add a lightning rod to a single family house and by the sound's of it could save a ton of money in the future.
  • Brad White_2
    Brad White_2 Member Posts: 188
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    I just had a similar situation

    at my house, what is called a "floating neutral". (Granted, lightning is hard to resist and the use of an APC or similar UPS -"uninteruppted power supply"- or plug-in suppressor like Dave and Scott mentioned, is hard advice to beat.)

    With the floating neutral, the neutral connection to the house is not firmly bonded with the utility side. The voltage of the two "hots" (normally 120 volts each or 240 volts combined) fluctuates as it tries to balance itself. When a voltage drop occurs in one, it rises in the other in short-hand. I had 148 volts in a 120 volt outlet. Because voltage is high, amperage is low and your circuit breaker has nothing to say about it.

    Basic symptoms that got me to realize that there was a problem. Lights flickering, and when I turned on an appliance (fan, refrigerator, dishwasher) the lights on other circuits got BRIGHTER not dimmer. At first I thought it was haunted. (Note to Art Bell and George Noory- Never Mind. :^)> )

    The condition blew out the circuit board in my Maytag Neptune (technology beat by physics) and my clock radio fried also. Fortunately nothing else.

    My point of this ramble is that you can lose delicate components even without lightning. Whodathunkit?
  • John Ruhnke
    John Ruhnke Member Posts: 882
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    Talk to a computer guy....................

    Bill,

    Computer equipment has the same sort of problems. Talk to a guy that works on expensive computer networks. What kind of surge protection would he install for his $50,000 computer network he installed last week? I am sure he would recommend something like the surge protector. I don't trust that electrician. Telling your client to Unplug when storm comes, sounds like butcher concepts to me. The electrician most likely installed something cheap. Get the best on the market.

    JR

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  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928
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    Doesn't even have to be in that house

    Years ago I noticed that lights in the house started to brighten at odd times. Went on for months. Was in the basement one evening working and noticed that tone coming from the dehumidifier was chainging quite audibly. Finally I saw the connection--as the big chiller serving the adjacent University building kicked in, the lights brightened and tone of dehumidifier increased. Then it would dim and tone decrease as it kicked off. (It was a mild evening and the chiller was short-cycling.)

    Called electric company and they fixed the problem--not sure what or where, but they did nothing here and no further problems.
  • Brad White_2
    Brad White_2 Member Posts: 188
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    Bet it was a neutral issue.

    Normally a chiller of that size would be 480 volts 3-phase and on a separate, isolated transformer. Still, feedback and harmonics in the line (particularly if a variable frequency drive was involved) could trigger that kind of back-feed into the line. In my situation, the loose neutral connection was outside my house and so far (now that it has been properly conected) it appears to be the only source of a problem.

    Correct as you noted, motor equipment in my house did similar strange things, almost musical but troubling.
  • Nick Z._2
    Nick Z._2 Member Posts: 32
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    Contact the power co.

    If at all possible meet the them there. Explain you're not blaming them, you just want to elimanate them as a factor.I would not be suprised to see a bad neutral and or no ground.Kinda hard to beleive a properly wired house could have such trouble. Blew 4-5 phones up at my Dads house ph. co. tech siad it was just a bad area. Had a freind of mine look at it , he saw right away no ground on the ph. system. Haven't had any trouble since.
  • S Davis
    S Davis Member Posts: 491
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    Tekmar

    Have you contacted Tekmar to see if they will inspect the control to see what exactly is failing in the control, I bet they would be interested.
    It might give you a better idea on what is happening.
    I had a job like that 18 Tekmar zones two boilers and DHW on a private island and the controls would go crazy flashing what looked like error codes but they didn't make any sense, it turned out the Trace power inverters that powered the house would go into sleep mode in low power consumption coditions and flatten out the sixty cycle wave and the control couldn't operate, we installed a perminent power supply and it solved the problem.
    We did think that it fried all the controls at first but when the power went back to normal the controls would opperate properly.


    S Davis


    Apex Radiant Heating
  • Kal Row
    Kal Row Member Posts: 1,520
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    first: get a computer UPS for the controls...


    then install a GFI circuit for the whole show, then take neutral to ground measurements throughout the path - and go over the results with the power company, they could have a bad line transformer, (repeated strikes tend to arc through the winding insulation) or the house ground is bad in which case it needs to fixed ASAP -

    if it's on a hill and attracts most of the hit's, then you need external strike shunts - again a power company issue,

    i understand their reluctance to bring in the power company, since this means licensed elec contractor expense
  • Bill Nye
    Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
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    Nope

    Not a brown out, definitely electrical storm related. House is 3/4 way up a steep hill. 4 adults concur they heard the lightning hit near by and heard buzz or flash goe through out the house
  • Bill Nye
    Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
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    Brad,my

    thought also. I know the surge suppressor will clamp down on incoming voltage but I feel this is a ground/neutral issue
  • Bill Nye
    Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
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    Two or three

    years ago they were not interested, nonreturned calls and disinterested tech service person so I never pursued matter.
  • Bill Nye
    Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
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    At risk myself!

    My Viessmann Trimatic is unprotected. I have a whole house lightning arrestor, and the house came with a late 40's installed lightning rod system. I still would like the definitive answer from someone as to the best protection.

    I had a trimatic that got hit about a month ago. It "fried" the pump relay but only wrecked two fuses in the trimatic MC. What a pain in the @#! to replace that! Between the customer the supply house and Viessmann it took three weeks to get me something that could work and at that I had to rewire the thing. Mis-communication, discontinued stock, and revised part numbers were probably the cause
  • Bill Nye
    Bill Nye Member Posts: 221
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    Nick

    I will have them explore that avenue. Relatives, it is not like I am making any money on this and my wife gets mad every time I go there for "free"
  • Glenn_3
    Glenn_3 Member Posts: 23
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    for the best protection try these guys:

    http://www.surgex.com/


    MUCH better than the standard MOV (Metal Oxide Varistor) protection that the other guys use.

    Glenn
  • Lee_5
    Lee_5 Member Posts: 3
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    Get a Whole House Surge protector

    Talk to an electrican about a whole house surge protector.
    They aren't extremely expensive or difficult to connect to your service panel.
  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928
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    Are they loosing other things besides the boiler control? Checked for leakage current from neutral to ground?

    Some things and locations seem particularly vulnerable to lightning problems. Customers of mine lost 4 or 5 Panasonic telephone system brains (KSUs) during lightning storms despite no apparent hits nearby. My phone system, a Lucent, was installed around the same time and despite two direct hits on trees no more than 50' from the house, no problems. They put in a lightning rod ("air terminal" is the new name) system and haven't had any problems for years.

    BTW, I've been using uninterruptable power supplies on my work computer for decades and have never lost an attached component. They're also a lots less expensive and longer lived than the used to be.

  • Bob Tonner
    Bob Tonner Member Posts: 64
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    Surge tolerance and controls....

    Bill,

    The peculiar thing to me is that the UL standards require any control approved to UL353 (Boiler Limit controls) or similar standards to be able to withstand up to 50 hits with lightning. All of our products (and I confidently assume Honeywell, Carlin and others) are tested by laboratory equipment that simulates these strikes quite accurately. I find it hard to imagine that lightning alone is the problem, becuase it is so easily dealt with at the design stage.

    I would give Tekmar another crack at getting to the bottom of it. Maybe there is a Mr. Tekmar in Vancouver BC that would want to answer your questions. Send an email and see what you get. Reps don't neccessarily have as much at stake as the owner of the company does.

    Bob
  • BillW@honeywell
    BillW@honeywell Member Posts: 1,099
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    I also recommend a whole-house surge supressor...

    Square D and others make them, and the electrician mounts them on the main service panel. They protect EVERY circuit in the house against anything but a direct lightning strike, and are not that pricey. They must be installed by a licensed electrician.
  • Harry_4
    Harry_4 Member Posts: 2
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    Picking whole house unit

    Anyone have recommendations based on actual performance for a whole house unit. I have spent many hours on the web trying to pick one and it is like choosing between different brands of snake oil.
  • Matt Undy
    Matt Undy Member Posts: 256
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    If its a neutral a voltmeter will tell you pretty wquickly although low voltage powere supplies for electronics are usually pretty tollerant of voltage fluctuations and they would probably take out the power supply, not the logic.

    The easiest way to guard agianst a bad neutral if you have a metal water service and cast iron mains is to bond the service equipment's neutral/ground bus to the water service as close to where it enters the house as possible. Even if the neutral in the drop fails the current will flow through the water main into the ground and through the neighbors' systems.

    Checking for a bad neutral is easy too (unless its intermitent). Just check both leggs with and without a fairly large 120V load (such as a toaster, iron, space heater). If the voltage on one side goes up at all and the voltage on the other goes down substantially its a bad neutral.

    Matt
  • Matt Undy
    Matt Undy Member Posts: 256
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    Control wiring

    Your missing somehting here, eveone is focused on the high voltage side. It is just as possible that a surge is coming in through the low voltage control wiring. Currents through the house or the ground during a lightning strike can induce currents in the control wiring. Differeneces in potential in the ground can be reflected in metal objects inside the house if they aren't bonded. The answer may lie in properly bonding the various wiring, the metal components of the house and the electrical system and possibly installing a lightnign rod system. The low voltage side is more likely to fry soemthign than the high voltage side.

    Matt
  • Matt Undy
    Matt Undy Member Posts: 256
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    whole house

    They are sort of whole house. They don't do as good a job of protection from internal sources such as the surges produced when motors start and stop but they do a better job on larger surges. Sensitive equipment should have its own supressor right at its outlet along with the whole house device.

    Matt
  • jerry scharf_2
    jerry scharf_2 Member Posts: 414
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    I was almost struck by lightning

    The bolt hit a tree about 20 feet away. I was running at the time and it didn't seem to affect me very much (visualize Joe Cocker...)

    There is a whole world of how to deal with lightning strikes. It aint cheap and it aint easy, but IBM put just about all of it down on paper in a series of tech notes for installation of mainframes.

    Personally, I like the idea of exercising the warranty on a computer UPS, but I would want to read the fine print before I believed I would get any money back.

    jerry
This discussion has been closed.