Lightning Strike destroying Zwave Devices


(Robert) #1

Last week there was an electrical event in my neighborhood, it spiked through my house and jumped from one Zwave device to another completely blowing them out, several burned. This event effected many homes in my subdivision, mine was the only one with a home automation system. I was told by the sub association president that a high tension line fell and fed the high voltage into our power grid. I thought at first the neutral line had become live, but the plug in zwave appliance devices also burned. Beyond my Zwave devices, nothing except for my cooktop was damaged, including my smart TV which was turned on while the event occurred.

Has anyone else experienced something like this? I’m wondering if it’s possible that the RF connection between the Zwave devices helped this charge move and destroy the Zwave grid?


Wiring GE Z-Wave In-Wall Switches and Fan
#2

Bummer! I feel your pain, that must be awful. (BTW, the neutral is always live in US homes. It’s a return wire.)

Your wired connected devices are just that–connected. Meaning drawing current all the time, because that’s how they have the power to hear the next “on” command from the network. So that may have been a factor, a zwave switch is never fully off. The RF part shouldn’t be a factor as far as over the air communication, though. (You can see this because it’s very likely your battery-powered zwave and zigbee devices would be completely unaffected.)


(Todd Wackford) #3

I had a similar issue last year. A power pole went down in a brush fire. One zwave switch totally toasted/dead and 7/8 other zwave switches no longer in the ST zwave mesh. I was able to recover them by removing and replacing them in the ST zwave network.

I wonder if those “whole house” GFI/Interupters would help?

Any power geeks in here have any input?


(Robert) #4

I meant that the neutral became a source instead of a return, although that theory is blown out of the water by the appliance modules which also fried and simply plug into a standard outlet. Some of the switches still function, although I no longer trust them since they are covered in soot


(Ray) #5

Definitely go with at least type 2 surge protector at your circuit breaker panel. It will protects external and internal surges. Not too many aware of this but most surges are from internals.


(Patrick Stuart [@pstuart]) #6

Electricity follows path of least resistance. Light switches are the most wire to the ground. However, because normal switches don’t fry as easy, zwave and ZigBee switches are always on and prone to surges.

I’ve seen some crazy things with lightning. A whole home surge protector and better grounding can help.

But frankly if you take a lightning strike head on, just be lucky you still have a house.


(Bruce) #7

I took a lightning strike to my house about a year ago. There was no visible damage. But, virtually every system in the house was zapped in one way or another. One of the expensive hits came from the low voltage side of an HVAC controller. A surge protector would not have helped. It’s just crazy what goes on with that much energy looking for ground.


(Ray) #8

A type 1 surge protector will actually help during a lightning strike but not all electric company allows this type of installation also it requires 2 service calls from them. So it’s pretty expensive. Also it’s a tricky business to pick the right one. I installed a few and usually make the recommendation to the new home owner during construction. So with type 1,2 and some type 3 installed. You are pretty safe in my opinion.


#9

Whole house protectors (RCBO) are quite popular in European cities. As Ray says, they can require professional installation and the cost may not be justified.

One big issue is that with certain types it means any surge anywhere in the house cuts off all power, so a hair dryer in the upstairs guest bedroom cuts power to the basement freezer and the garage door opener. These aren’t technically nuisance trips as there was a real surge, but did you really want the whole house to go dark?

There’s also a balancing issue–your neighbor cutting power so they can install a new light fixture may mean your whole house monitor cuts off your power when the drop is detected.

So they can potentially help, but can be tricky to get right in practice.