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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

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 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

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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