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Lightning Strikes Can Damage Electrical Wiring

We had a lightning strike our tree in our front yard. A circuit breaker tripped in the breaker box. It would not reset…

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Lightning Strikes Can Damage Electrical Wiring
Background: Al, a Homeowner from St. Louis, MO
[ad#block]Question: We had a lightning strike our tree in our front yard. A circuit breaker (not GFI) tripped in the breaker box (15A). It would not reset. I replaced it with a new 15A breaker and it tripped as soon as I set it. I pulled the wires from the electrical panel (black, white and ground) and across the black/white wires I have ~20 ohms. Need your help! How do I troubleshoot this problem?

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Al. Lighting strikes can cause damage to wiring which will require identification and repairs or replacement wiring.

Electrical Charged Sink After Lightning Strike
Fran asks:
We have charged sinks after lightning strike. What should we do?

Additional Comments: Amazing resource.

Dave’s Reply:

From what you have described, if you are experiencing electrical problems after a lightning strike then I highly advise you to consider contacting a qualified electrician as soon as possible.

The home electrical system may have been damaged and in need of repairs.

If you are experiencing electrical shocks, then the electrical service should be turned off if at all possible, and stay away from all grounded areas of the home such as sinks, drains, bathtubs, showers, and water facets.

Wear well insulated shoes with rubber soles as an added measure of protection.

Follow Up: Damaged Electrical Ground System

Thank you!

We had an electrician come today. Though we had turn the electric box completely off, we returned off the water heater circuit and that helped the sinks stop being “hot.”
He found out electric box grounding poles needed a new bracket (running 125 instead of 25.). So after digging down, installing a new clamp, we are grounded safely.
Again, I’m grateful to find your website and will recommend others to you. Thank you for actually answering as well!

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14 Responses to “Lightning Strikes Can Damage Electrical Wiring”
  1. Mitchell says:

    lighting struck my watersoftner transformer that was plugged into the wall and blew it to pieces, also the fan and the light switch was hit. black smut was on the wall around to switch and the fan speed regulator was blown apart. i got a new fan and new swtich, the switch has power checked by meter. but the fan does not. could the wires from the switch to the fan through the attic be damaged? do i need to replace them? with the switch off i get 1.150 volts, with the swtch on i get .142

  2. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Mitchell,
    It sounds like your home took quite a hit. I have repaired a few homes with similar damage, it is best to check all of the circuits, but the main panel will need to be checked first to see if it has sustained damage, then all of the circuits will need to be tested one at a time. This is a very lengthy process because it may involve removing all of the connections in the main panel, then testing each individual wire to a ground source with a Megger meter which charges the circuit and checks for voltage leaks, and all devices must be disconnected before this test can be performed. The wiring in the attic should be checked as well paying close attention to anywhere where the wiring is close to metal pipes or any grounded objects. I have seen wiring blow out through the side of the insulation and arc to a gas pipe which was grounded. That home had damage to all of the electrical devices, even the phones and alarm system was damaged.
    Needless to say, this is best performed by a licensed electrician who knows how to make these tests and repairs.
    Check with your insurance company and hopefully this will be covered.
    Best of luck,

  3. Mitchell says:

    i replaced the plug that the transformer to the rain softner was in and its working i plugged my water bed into the outlet and the heater is working all the outlets in the room work. when i use my meter to test for power all the outlets and the light switch send the meter into a scream but when i put the meter up to the wires at the fan really low sound from meter and that’s putting the meter close to the attic hole. does that help at all.

  4. Dave Rongey says:

    Mitchell, it is hard to say because I am not there, so I cannot perform the electrical tests, and I do not know what type of tester you are using which is producing the results you are hearing, and there is not just one type of test that is performed.

    For your safety, I suggest that you get a licensed electrician in your area to come out and check the home electrical system.

  5. Mitchell says:

    ok thank you for your answer. really appreciated

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    You are so VERY Welcome!
    I hope your home is not severely damaged, those lightning strikes can be real buggers!
    Be Safe!

  7. Richard Bartoo says:

    Lightening strike hit, but the only damage to the electrical system was that we had two toggle-switches in a box near the back door, and the switch plate cover for these toggle switches exploded; pieces of the cover plate were scattered over the rug, and the circuit breaker was popped. I have re-set the circuit breaker, but when I try to use the switches, the lights do not come on. The electrical tester does not show any electricity to any of the wires.
    What else can I check? I have replaced the switches, and find I may have to replace some of the wiring because the ground-wires were burned out.

  8. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Richard,
    Lightening can cause damage to devices such as switches and electrical wiring and cables. The intense power of a lightening strike can also cause splitting the electrical wires and cable open and then arcing to anything that will provide a path to ground. A visual inspection of the electrical wiring is typically required, with special attention where cables are close to any grounded path, such as water pipes or gas pipes. Damaged wires or sections of cable will need to be replaced and junction boxes installed according to code. Further damage can be revealed by testing the electrical wiring using a Megger or Meg Ohm Meter which will place a load onto the wiring and test the circuit for damage. The Megger test should be performed by a qualified electrician and all electrical devices must be removed from the circuits before testing to prevent damage to the devices. Resistance tests may also be performed on the electrical wiring to reveal Dead Shorts and Open Circuits to help diagnose problem areas of the wiring.
    I hope this helps,

  9. Donna says:

    I had a ductless heating/cooling system installed in my condo last October. A few weeks ago the 4 units stopped working. I checked the circuit breaker, everything seemed fine. I called the Company that installed it and they told me that the outside compressor that is mounted on the outside of the condo was struck by lightning. They replaced the “circuit boards” I think they are called on this Fujitsu unit and the units starting working fine. Then about 20 minutes later they stopped. Now they are sending an electrician out to check the main circuit breaker located on the other side of my neighbors condo because they said that was struck by lightning. Is this even a possibility or am I being taken advantage of so they don’t have to take responsibility?

  10. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Donna,
    In a situation like this the results may vary depending on the qualifications and integrity of those who will be consulted to evaluate the system problems and then make the appropriate repairs. You may request to see or keep the alleged lighting damaged parts that are replaced which could be used in future evaluations. Now that two separate companies have been consulted this may provide more useful information. When equipment has a problem or stops working one of the first things checked is the electrical circuit power, therefore it is a little odd that the company who changed out the circuit board would even attempt to power up the unit if the circuit power was not correct.
    Make sure to document the situation and events very carefully.
    You may also consider checking with your home insurance policy or company agent to see if there is a provision for lightning damage, and if so ask for their direction in this matter.
    I hope this helps,

  11. nikki says:

    Can lightning damage a ceiling fan? Last night lightning struck and I saw a big spark in the wire of my ceiling fan, and now the fan is not working. Do you think the ceiling fan has been damaged by the lightning?

  12. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Nikki,
    Lightning strikes can cause damage to home electrical systems and electrical devices such as a ceiling fan. It would be best to have the ceiling fan and the electrical wiring checked and inspected to find out the extent of the damage, and then make the necessary repairs as needed.
    I hope this helps,

  13. Sonya says:

    Can electrical outlets work for most things, but hardly charge a phone after a lightning strike?

  14. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Sonya,
    Electrical outlets should work for all compatible devices that are plugged unto them, so if there was a lightning strike in your area and the electrical power does not seem to be working normally then you should contact your electric utility company who provides electricity to your home and explain what you are experiencing and they will evaluate the situation.
    Be Safe,