The great lightning strike of 2019

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 28, 2019, 10:43 PM | comments: 0

Monday, our house took a nearly direct lightning strike. I don't think it was the house itself since I imagine asphalt roofs and stucco walls aren't particularly conductive, and also because our neighbors also lost rooms full of electronics, pool filtration systems and who knows what else. We lost a bunch of stuff.

First and most serious is that one of the AC heat pumps outside seemed to take the brunt of it, while introducing the electricity into our house. The HVAC tech hooked up pressurized air and immediately you could hear leaking. He took it apart to find a big old hole just off the compressor, and another in the coils. This happens to be the unit that feeds the bedrooms upstairs, so we've been camping out on the couch for three nights so far, still waiting for the shop to get back to us with parts. They've been non-communicative for a day, which is not encouraging. This seems to be par for the course, which is pretty weird in a place where it's damn hot all summer. I guess, on the plus side, we're using far less power than usual. The fix is going to be expensive, for sure, and it looks like my homeowners deductible is a grand.

That hit also fed through the transformers in both air handlers that power the thermostats, and both were fried. These are Nest E thermostats (the less expensive ones), and it was actually the bases that burned out. I didn't know this, but they have a bunch of electronics in them. I took them apart to find a big circuit board inside, and the charred remains of some component that fed the common wire power into the unit. Google doesn't sell just the bases, so I complained about being out $350 to replace them on the Twitter. Amazingly, Google asked me to get in touch with them, and an hour later, they offered to send replacements. How great is that?

When the hit happened, it also did something naughty to our lights. Actually, at least a half-dozen LED bulbs in the recessed lightning got hosed, but the bigger problem was that the entire circuit that feeds our kitchen, pantry and dining room lights was permanently tripped. I thought maybe it was the breaker, so I replaced that, but it still tripped. Finally got an electrician out today, who started looking in switches and outlets to find some wires that welded themselves together. But on the plus side, the breaker replacement was legit, and better me spending $45 than $80 by the electrician. Just cost the labor at $100.

Internet went out to, and that was the worst part of waking hours. Half the neighborhood went out, and when they "fixed" that, a bunch of us were still down. Me and my neighbor both had the fiber to coax converters get zapped, which seemed strange since the fiber wouldn't carry a current. However, the converter is powered by a $2 transformer inside the house, which in our case got blown out in the hit and fed that down to the converter. Once those were all replaced, we were back to streaming Netflix comedy specials, and without spending money.

The meter sensors in our power gateway apparently stopped working, which is bad news, because it means we can't do the switching to charge the battery and cover us in a power outage, which is the whole point. Tesla is going to try to get us back up before Dorian gets here, but I'm not optimistic. They don't have a great track record for delivery.

The couch sleeping is getting kind of rough though. My back was feeling pretty bad all day. If the AC doesn't get repaired soon, I might be wrestling the mattress downstairs. Not sure where to though, because in front of the massive patio windows isn't a good idea during a hurricane.

I'm glad we've got all of the lighting and internal power back to normal, but the HVAC is going to hurt, physically and financially for a bit.


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