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new install struck by lightning

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by all ferris, Jul 11, 2010.

  1. all ferris

    all ferris LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,309

    I just did a decent size lighting job for a customer (all Kichler products) and lightning struck the pathlight that was furthest away from the transformer. I haven't been by the job to personally see the damage but the customer described the carnage over the phone. She said that the transformer smells like it melted and said the landscape rock was blown off the wire in places. I asked the customer to leave the transformer unplugged until I look at it.

    My question is: Should the entire system be replaced or should I just replace the things that are currently not working? I think, with the system being fairly new, that I should replace everything regardless if it works now or not. I'm worried about the integrity of the LED lights and the wire in the whole system after having that much current going through it. If I just fix what is broken now I think it may haunt me down the road. what do you think?
  2. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    How would you cover the cost? Is this something homeowners insurance would cover? If it backfed and blew apart the transformer, it might make sense to replace it. You might be able to megger out the wire. I never thought much about this situation but how do you guys cover yourselves from an act of nature like this. It isn't your fault and it isnt the clients fault. Who covers that loss of equipment? This may be something that makes me include a whole house surge protector for a lighting install.
  3. all ferris

    all ferris LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,309

    I do believe that this would be covered by a homeowners insurance policy. A whole house surge protector? Would you plug it in where the transformer is plugged in at?

    The homeowner also lost a TV and had some other electrical issues.
  4. Tim R.

    Tim R. LawnSite Member
    Messages: 87

    Funny you should bring this up. I have a potential client that just got hit two weeks ago. He replaced all the electronics in his house. I suggested a whole house surge would be a good idea.

    All Ferris: the surge wires into the panel.
  5. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    Whole house surge protection is mounted to the electrical panel and tied in to either a 2 pole breaker or installed directly onto the buss. Typically it can add $10000 to $25000 worth of protection over and above the homeowners. Depends on the manufacturer. It is also a good idea to protect against surge on the phone lines and catv lines. It will not protect against a direct hit from lightning but something like this particular situation it should. This is similar to the well head on a house being struck and the damage that can occur. It is just coincidence that it was your lighting installation.
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    it should be covered on their homeowners insurance, they will have to cover a deductable. it is why they pay 1000-3000 per year for insurance on thier home. I would replace everything with new in one swoop, otherwise you may have warranty work in your future that insurance will not cover. Although you could reccomend a whole house surge suppressor, make sure she understands that they have surge ratings and limits and will not protect against lightning strikes.
  7. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Messages: 1,865

    I deal with lightning a lot in irrigation. First, whole house surge protectors aren't going to do any good. The lighting hits ground and travels through the LV wiring back to the transformer and the transformer generally protects the house wiring. Most of the time, the field wiring for irrigation systems is still fine after a lightning hit. We typically have to replace the controller (fried from the field side) and some or all of the valve solenoids. Ocassionally we'll also have water pipes shattered if they were close to the hit.

    I would suggest replacing the transformer and making a visual inspection of the fixtures. Replace whatever is obviously damaged. Once you do that, I'd ohm the wires to check for shorts and then hook things back up and make another check of the fixtures. The electricity is traveling towards the plug so most of the time with irrigation, it's only solenoids along that path that are fried. I would expect it to be the same with LVL and I'd expect the home run to hub nature of professional installs to provide an additional layer of protection to the zones that didn't take the direct hit. My guess is that you won't have to replace much but, there's always the possibility that you'll have to replace it all.
  8. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    I would probably replace the system. The wires are not designed for that kind of stress, let alone the fixtures and transformers. I say it is better safe than sorry and insurance will probably cover most of it. Then you can comfortably warranty it.
  9. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    Not to get entirely onto surge protection but yes, to cover yourself it is best to protect the phone and catv lines coming in too. These are supposed to be installed by licensed electricians in order for the warranty to cover the install. Typically the things I see go are the garage door openers, phones and doorbells. People always think about their electronics but I have seen furnaces, wells and major appliances go. A Sub Zero fridge is an expensive loss, something that a $200.00 investment might be able to protect against. Again, a surge protector will not stop a direct lightning hit on the system but if you have the possibility of it coming in on the lv lighting just like it would on a buried phone wire because the neighbors house or a tree got hit you are in luck. Plus it is just a good idea to have. I put them in on all my service changes and this makes me think I will on all my lighting installs now too. Differentiation
  10. all ferris

    all ferris LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,309

    I saw the damage and took a couple pics. I would post them but I'm having trouble figuring it out. If you guys want to see the pics then someone may have to pm me their email and I will email the pics to you. The pics keep trying to attach to this site with the wrong extension.

    Basically the pics show a hole in the top of the transformer and 1 Kichler LED totally destroyed (it looks like it exploded from the inside). The plug in for the timer in the transformer came out of the transformer and melted the metal plugs on the timer. All the bulbs for the pathlights are gone (I mean blown up as in not there). Without dissecting the entire system I have no idea what else could be wrong.

    I suggested to the customer that the entire system be replaced. I told her there is no way I could warranty the system if I patch it back together in bits and pieces.

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