Lightning does strike twice, literally

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 13, 2022, 12:34 AM | comments: 0

A crazy storm rolled up out of nowhere this morning. I knew we would see a 40-degree temperature swing today, so I expected it to be mostly just windy, but it had some crazy lightning. And wouldn't you know it, while I was in the shower, it struck somewhere near the house, approximately the same way that it did a few years ago. So that old saying that lightning never strikes twice is apparently not true.

Once again, it took out our Internet connection. There was a wider problem with the equipment down the street that knocked out a bunch of houses, but a guy came out and fixed that and confirmed the fiber to our houses was working. Unfortunately, again, the little transformer that powers the fiber to coax converter got blown out, so I had to wait for a dude to come and replace that. This time, the converter itself seemed to survive the hit.

My router was not so lucky. The ethernet port that connects to the modem got fried. When we moved into this place I bought a fancy mesh router from Ubiquity, because I knew it was the only way we would get a good signal throughout the larger house. Those things were expensive back in the day, and this one had a little screen on the front that showed some interesting things like your spontaneous bandwidth usage. It's not the first router I've had die from lightning, the previous one being an Apple AirPort back in 2017. Lightning has a way of getting around surge protectors when it's coming in through Internet cables. I have a backup router, the thing I used to replace the Apple, but I was never crazy about it, and it definitely doesn't reach very far into this house. So I ordered a new one that will be here in the morning. That replacement will be kind of neat because any of the nodes can act as the main router, and they can connect via the ethernet I have in the house meaning it won't be the wireless relay style mesh systems otherwise have to use.

The really messed up thing is that the lightning did something to our power plant. At the center of the solar and battery system is something called a gateway. Basically it does the switching to kick in the battery when the grid goes down, and in the process, fully disconnects the house from the grid. It has to do this because under normal circumstances, the solar is usually putting its excess power back on the grid, which would be bad if there are people working on it. When the lightning hit, it knocked out our power completely. I could see that the battery wasn't talking to the gateway (it flashes a light), so that was bad. But the grid wasn't down, because all of our high voltage stuff, the oven, air conditioners and stuff, are basically on a separate system from everything else, and they had power. (The battery is only big enough to power the usual stuff like lights and the fridge in an outage.) I wasn't sure what to do, so I threw the big red switch that disconnects the power plant from the house entirely. That's a code requirement, apparently so a firefighter can make sure it isn't feeding power in when they don't want it to. When I threw it, all of our stuff came back on. When I put it back, it all went off. At this point, I remembered that the gateway has a reset button, so I tried that. I could hear some relays clicking in it, and it appeared we were back to normal.

But we weren't. One of the solar inverters was not synchronizing with the grid. The app said we were off the grid and on it at the same time. And then I noticed after sundown that we are apparently running off the battery. There's a total reset process for it all that means resetting and shutting everything down, but I'm not going to mess with that in the middle of a cold night. That'll be my first task in the morning.


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