ELK and Powerlinc - Lightning/Surge Protection

I recently had a lightning strike near my house that was close enough to take out several electronic components and trip several GCFI breakers. Unfortunately the majority of the damage was to my elk system, including the main panel, the ethernet expander board, as well as the lighting interface board. The other devices damaged were a network router and a linksys VOIP that were in a cabinet next to the elk cabinet and also several NIC cards on connected computers as well as an Insteon powerlinc controller that was connected to the elk lighting interface.

I thought my configuration was protected from serious damage since everything (other than my Insteon powerlinc) in both my networking and elk cabinets are plugged into an APC UPS with both power and cable (for my cable modem) surge supression.

I am trying to figure out how the surge damage occurred so I can be better prepared next time. Here is what I have concluded at this point. Feel free to jump in to add your thoughts.

1) Since my network router was completely fried either the UPS it was plugged into failed or else something else on my network transferred a surge onto the cat5 cable (although all of my connected equipment is on surge supressors as well). The resulting surge on the cat5 cable is what damaged the nic cards in my computers, my VOIP box, and likely the elk ethernet interface card.

2) I had an Inston powerlinc plugged into a dedicated circuit coming directly out of my main breaker panel and this was connected to the elk lighting interface card. The powerlinc was not plugged into any type of surge supressor or UPS because I assumed this would degrade the powerline signal. Since the powerlinc failed in the surge I assume this is what took out my elk lighting interface card. If this is true then maybe this surge traveled from the lighting interface card to the main panel and then to the ethernet interface card, although I don't know how feasible this would be.

3) I am not certain what caused the damage to the main elk panel since it was connected to the UPS unit as well. I guess the surge damage to either the ethernet interface or the llighting interface could have also traveled to the main panel since both of these devices were direclty connected to the main panel.

So now the question is what should I do differently?
- Is a $100 UPS good enough to protect connected equipment from surges?
- Should I plug my powerlinc into a surge supressor and if so will that degrade the powerline signal (if you are not familar with the powerlinc and Insteon they have similar signal sucking issues as with X10 technology)
- Are there cat5 surge supressors that I can use to protect the elk ethernet interface?
- Other stuff (build a lightning protection bubble over my house and generate my own power)...

Any thoughts or $$$donations would be appreciated (-:

-Matt
 

Digger

Senior Member
Doesn't APC have an equipment guaruntee that if you equipment is damaged they cover it up to a certian amount?
 
APC does offer this guarentee but after checking into the "fine print" I would be surprised if they ever actually pay out. First you have to have filled out the APC product registration card within 10 days of purchasing the UPS. Upon registration you have to specify the equipment that will be plugged into the UPS in order for it to be covered. Secondly every possible device that can be electricly traced to the failing device must have also been protected by an APC device (in my case this is my entire network and connected devices, powerlinc controller, and if you think about it all of the hard-wired alarm circuit wires and speaker wire could be contributing factors so I would be willing to bet they don't even cover alarm panels). Lastly, if you feel confident you meet the first 2 points above you send the UPS device off to APC and they test it to see if it fails. If they can't find evidence of failure then you get no money.

Oh and on top of this they only cover up to your insurance deductible anyway and in my case this is $500.

I can understand the second and third points to some degree but certainly you can see that it is not worth the effort to go through to try to collect the $500 deductible.

FYI - I have gone through this with Monster Cable and their surge protectors in the past when a TV was damaged in a lightning surge. At the time someone told me Monster Cable was the only company that was easy to deal with for these types of claims. I can confirm that they are easy to deal with and do pay out, even when their surege protectors don't show evidence of failure.
 

BLH

Active Member
Many surge suppressors will kill X10 or Insteon signals. I have my APC BX1000 UPS AC supply in a Smarthome FilterLinc as it absorbed most of my X10 and Insteon Signals.
Having worked with remote controlled Two Way Radio Basestations. I have seen lightning jump all over the place. The surge may have gone through the PowerLinc and serial cable to the rest of the electronics.
 

wuench

Senior Member
I would take a serious look at your cable line. You say you had cable surge suppression but what was that plugged into. It needs to be grounded and all your grounds need to be tied together for the ultimate in protection. Also, you mention VOIP, but is the phone line in your house connected to anything? Just because it isn't active doesn't mean it won't bring in a surge.

The is how it was explained to me...

a ground is like a bucket and electricity like water. So let's say you have a sattelite dish (or phone line) connected to a ground rod. Your electrical panel is also connected to a earthground (water pipe or another ground rod.) Any close lightning strike is guaranteed to saturate or fill one ground, then it begins trying to get to the next. So your satellite or phone ground fills up, it is going to head for your electrical ground (or vice versa). It will take the best path. If the only way is through your house and equipment, then that is the way it will go, frying things, starting fires, etc. Now if your ground rods are tied together it will take that path, and not go through the house.
 
Good thought regarding the cable line and phone line. In this case there is no incoming phone line attached to anything inside the house since I disconnected it when I moved to VOIP over my cable based internet connection. I don't think the surge in this particular case had anything to do with the cable line either because my cable modem and TVs connected to the cable are in good shape.

On another note, I did hear back from Smarthome regarding their recomendation for protecting the powerlinc connection. They confirmed that I don't want to plug the powerlinc in to any type of surge device because this degrade the powerline signal. They did strongly recommend a whole house surge supressor installed just before the main breaker panel.

Looks like these whole house units run about $200 or so (I see one from Leviton in this price range). Maybe this is a better approach than trying to have everything in the house on its own surge device. Plus this would help protect all my Insteon and X10 devices. Does anyone have any experience with these. They probably aren't too hard to install if you have a main power shutoff outside the house.
 

Steve

Senior Member
There are some posts about this around but the bottom line is nothing will stop a direct, or sometimes very close strike. The best is a meter based protector because it is the absolute first line of defense and there are no leads, it snaps right inline. Check with your utility company, most lease them per month and include maintenance and replacement of it if it goes bad. A Leviton type unit outside by the service entrance is the next best solution.
 
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