Electrical power surges

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Old 06-09-11, 01:49 AM
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Electrical power surges

In April, 2011 during a windstorm two power lines touched causing a transformer on the pole to catch fire. During this process it sent a power surge through my house burning out some wires in the circut breaker box, most of the sockets, all electrical appliances that were plugged up to include flat screen TV's, fridge, stove, washer/dryer, freezer, cable box, PC's, Xbox, playstation 3, lamps, ceiling light fixtures, window A/C units, just everything that was plugged in. The fire dept was call, the utility company came with 3 big trucks got power lines up and power turned back on in about 6hrs. The strange thing was no damage was done to my neighbor directly next to me, some damage to the hous next to her, no damage to the house next to her and some damage to the house across the street. It appears that even though the transfer located in the yard of the 2nd house from mine it serves on my home.
My question is what unforseen damages could still exist because I have electrical cords running everywhere and is it normal for this type of power surge to do this much damage where it burn out everything plugged up.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 02:37 AM
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When a transformer explodes, anything is possible. The surge can be tens of thousands of volts and thousands of amps, and it can and will fry anything plugged in. And sometimes power distribution can look odd. Your house and your neighbor's house could possibly be on two separate grids, therefore the surge on one won't touch the other. My old house was like that, and my neighbor and I used to 'borrow a cup of power' from each other when only one went out for an extended period.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 06:20 AM
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If you sustained damage on unused receptacles, in addition to all else you mentioned, that is concerning. You had a severe overvoltage event. I would worry about the in wall wiring. Either consider a high pot test of the wiring (done by a pro), or at least install AFCI breakers for the living spaces.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by RomeoMcIver View Post
My question is what unforseen damages could still exist because I have electrical cords running everywhere and is it normal for this type of power surge to do this much damage where it burn out everything plugged up.
No it is not normal. The power surge at your house sounds like a pretty extreme example of what can go wrong. Hopefully your insurance company will cover the damage to the appliances. See if you can also get them to cover a good inspection by a master electrician. It sounds like you had a severe over-voltage event which could have damaged wires in the walls as typical home wiring is rated only to a maximum of 600V.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 04:27 PM
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I would think you have a claim with the power company rather then your insurance.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 05:56 PM
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Would a whole house surge protector have helped in a situation like this?

I read an article in the paper a year or so ago about a family who had everything in their house fried like this. A storm had come through and knocked their power line down off the pole. The power company showered up and reconnected the power lines. Turned out the neutral line came loose at their house. So when the hot lines were reconnected at the pole, everything fried. They tried to place a claim with the power company and they told them it wasn't their problem. Because the lines was down on their house, it was their responsibility. The homeowners told them it was the power companies fault. Needless to say, no one paid their claim until the paper got involved.

Well, it seems I remember some of the details incorrectly. The article is here and explains: JCP&L denies responsibility for damaging electric power surge | NJ.com
 
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Old 06-09-11, 06:57 PM
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That article said there was a surge protector that was fried at the meter.

Smelling the electrical odor, she said the crews immediately dismantled the electric meter, took out the fried surge protector, replaced the meter, repaired the wiring problem from the road to the house and told them they were good to go.
I believe in good surge protectors, but most manufacturer's also warn that a surge protector will not withstand a direct hit by lightning or other very high voltage events. The OP may have been helped with a surge protector and maybe not. I would also be interested in seeing the grounding connections at the OP's service.
 
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Old 06-09-11, 09:59 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
That article said there was a surge protector that was fried at the meter.



I believe in good surge protectors, but most manufacturer's also warn that a surge protector will not withstand a direct hit by lightning or other very high voltage events. The OP may have been helped with a surge protector and maybe not. I would also be interested in seeing the grounding connections at the OP's service.
I used to have JCP&L, and I had one of those meter socket surge protectors. You can only get them by paying for their "PowerGuard" plan, which is a monthly charge insurance plan, and specifically protects your large appliances (furnace, refrigerator, etc). They also have plug-in protectors for electronics. I was paying I think $4 a month for the meter protector and a dozen or so plug ins but I never had to make a claim on it. But anyway, with the meter protector in place, the PowerGuard plan covered everything in the house from all electrical damage. The fact that the surge protector melted is a clear indication that the damage should be covered under the plan. They should've sued JCP&L for the remainder.
 
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Old 06-10-11, 07:27 AM
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This is why I pay for full replacement cost on my homeowners. It's bad enough I can't have a deductible lower than $1500. I don't need to get hit for 50% of a loss if something major happens.
 
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Old 06-10-11, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
Would a whole house surge protector have helped in a situation like this?
I doubt it would have helped if there was in fact a primary shorting to a secondary. An event like that has enough fault current to turn sand into glass. There really is nothing you can do to protect against it other than being completely disconnected when it happens.
 
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Old 06-10-11, 12:26 PM
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Something like that would probably jump your main, too.
 
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Old 06-10-11, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
This is why I pay for full replacement cost on my homeowners. It's bad enough I can't have a deductible lower than $1500. I don't need to get hit for 50% of a loss if something major happens.
Yeah but the thing is they were paying for insurance to cover them in this exact case and it didn't pay out. It doesn't matter whether JCP&L was responsible for the surge or not, or what the exact cause of the surge was. The fact is it WAS a surge, and since they were paying their monthly fee and the damage happened while the meter guard was in place, the Powerguard insurance should've paid for the damage. They shouldn't have had to get their homeowner's involved.
 
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