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A huge thunderstorm passed by the other night and lightning hit the condo building I live in. The fire department came out and inspected the attic, and removed the antenna that was hit.

Inside the condo unit, some of the outlets no longer seem to work, and the garage door opener lights up but will not open the door. The TV was fried despite being on a surge protector.

We have an electrician coming out to check a few of these things, but in general what things should I check after a lightning strike? Are there other things I should be aware of, or look to have fixed/replaced?

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My best advice would be to find a way to put a lightning protection on the building(kinda' like an antenna, it's quite expensive ~$3,000.-- but worth every penny) ASAP, this time, you were lucky no one got hurt, next time it may be worst... –  ComputerSaysNo Oct 24 '12 at 7:53
Depending on the strata agreement, the building management (and the insurance company) may be obligated to fix things. Ultimately, it'll come out of the reserve, and you'll probably have to top that up, but management NEEDS to know what's going on with the electrical in the building. –  Chris Cudmore Oct 24 '12 at 13:59
@ComputerSaysNo - I've heard them called "lightning attractors" lately. Not sure how good an idea they are anymore. –  Rob Oct 24 '12 at 14:10
This is a condo building. The management company is sending out an electrician to check out a few units including ours. I'm grateful for any advice for additional things to check. –  The Other Steven Oct 24 '12 at 16:09
Review your insurance policies to see what is covered, and then decide if you'd like to make a claim. –  derobert Oct 25 '12 at 20:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Lightning strikes can cause damage to many items in a house. The most suspectable items are GFI outlets, any electronic machines ( TV, computers, audio equipment etc.), dimmers, switches and elements of an electric range/oven, and yes, garage door openers.

Another area to check is to unplug any device plugged into a receptacle and inspect the metal plug prongs for any signs of burns. If you find dark pits, any melted metal etc, then the plug and outlet should be replaced.

Using an inexpensive outlet checker, check all outlets for malfunctions such as open grounds, neutrals etc. Open the circuit breaker box and do a visual check for any signs of arcing or burned wires.

If you are not comfortable doing these inspections yourself, ask your electrician to do a quick once over on the items I mentioned above. This should take less than an hour to complete and give you peace of mind.

Just a side note. Lightning rod systems are somewhat effective for direct hits, however in the large percentage of lightning damage cases, the surge of ultra high voltage enters the home via the grounding system of the house. Lightning strikes a tree, a transformer or the ground close to the house and energizes the entire ground and neutral system and conductors. The instantaneous voltage spike can easily exceed 50,000 volts. there is little you can do to defend your property from such a strike. Common surge protectors will fail most of the time. Computers connected to a UPS usually survive because they are isolated from the primary power source even though the UPS may be damaged.

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Odds are the wrappings of the garage door motor melted or the control board for the garage door fried. Either way, it's a new garage door opener for you. –  Edwin Buck Oct 24 '12 at 20:49
normally the control board on the garage openers gets fried. –  shirlock homes Oct 24 '12 at 22:16
Yeah, I should have reordered the possibilities by most likely to least likely. –  Edwin Buck Oct 24 '12 at 22:26

When it comes to lighting, it goes were it wants to. I agree with the others answers, but one thing that is not address is how far to go on the electrical system itself. If your house took a direct hit it could have done a lot of damage to the wiring in the walls, under the house, in the lawn... ect. You need to get it all check. I would get a meg ohm test on each circuit to verify the integrity of the insulation, and get a copy of the report. If a problem is found, it can be fixed, if no problems are found good, but ether way you will sleep better at night

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Looking for answers myself as we were hit by lightning. It hit at the highest point in the house where I was standing and scared the $%*! out of me then the real scary part happened and we heard(me, wife, daughter) a loud blowing sound like a blast furnace, in the attic. Upon inspection the gas line going to the water heater had cracked and ignited.

After getting my family to a neighbors I turned off the gas and had the fire department thoroughly inspect everything. Luckily the gas fire was pointing in a way that only a few boards got hot and started smoldering but it was cooled down by the Fire department prior to any real damage.

The frustrating part was everything that happened the next day when we had the local power department turn on the power on(per Fire department recommendations). One floor of the house showed that any complex appliance was damaged. Including the air conditioning unit. Finding out exactly what was fried then was bad but since we have found more and more appliances and devices going out one after the other. Unfortunately beside turning on the power the electric company did nothing more and stated we were good to go and the fire department where I am located had really not dealt with this situation and was unable to really give much further advise. By the way no hard feelings to the Fire Department they were fast and thorough in what they did and very friendly and helpful. The electric company which we pay significantly to each month....not so much.

We are now hiring a private electrician to do a more thorough investigation of the wiring as several devices either showed no sign of damage initially or were even replaced and have since gone out or no longer function properly.

My Advice:

My advice would be to inspect any electronic component but also as someone stated previously the outlets and fuse boxes. Also any cable and phone lines as these also have has issues and the cable needed to be rewired in some areas of the house.

Our situation could have been much worse so I am grateful that we had a strong roof and our luck held out to keep us all safe. Not to mention a great job from the local Fire department. However if we had known how to follow up with proper inspection and any idea of the lingering effects we would have saved a great deal of grief.

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The best approach is to check anything electrical that was connected to cables in your house- either power or communication- as lightning can find its way along any wire.

A visual check may show scorch marks or blown components, especially in electronic circuits, but you'd be better off checking every power supply, every appliance and every power socket manually.

Surge protectors will be useful against normal peaks and fluctuations, but lightning is orders of magnitude more powerful. As @computer says, a lightning rod is your only useful protection.

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