When A Lightening Strike Blows Your Power Company’s Transformer Off Its Utility Pole ………


A good friend of mine with about $20,000 invested in his audio system recently emailed me asking for my thoughts on what he should upgrade next. He said his budget was about $2,000, and he said he was considering a major upgrade to his Linn analog setup. He knows I love vinyl as I have a fully tricked out Michell GyroDec with their first external outboard power supply (The original was AC powered but because a supplier discontinued a vital part they had to re-engineer it as a DC power supply. I thought about what I would recommend to my friend. While thinking, I reflected on my own journey through this wonderful hobby we share, and then I remembered a potentially disastrous event that affected us when my wife and I lived in central Texas. And I was grateful that we dodged a huge bullet at the time. So I wrote him back and said:

If it were me, I’d spend the money on a good electrician: First, I’d have him install and properly ground a whole house surge protector. They can actually save your system and everything electrical in your home. A few years back I lived in Arlington, TX. We had a bad thunderstorm roll through one afternoon and lightning struck the transformer that fed our home and several others, and it blew the transformer off the pole into my backyard. I incurred ZERO damage, and my power feed was the closest to the transformer.

My neighbor on our left lost EVERYTHING that was plugged into an outlet, including their stove, refrigerator, D/W, water heater, and their HVAC. Even worse, all of their home’s interior electrical wiring was fried and the entire house had to be re-wired. Their insurance company was only willing to replace everything with all inside wiring in code-approved conduit and conduit mounted outlets that would be placed on the bottom outside of their walls in all the interior rooms (they would have been ugly as hell).

The neighbor paid extra to have electricians fish new wiring from the attic so the wiring would be like (and look like) it was before the strike. This was an expensive extra cost NOT COVERED by their H/O policy. It was August in central Texas and an electrician could only last about 60 minutes in the attic as the attic temperature ranged from 130F to 140F. And they had to shop for and purchase all new appliances, install a new HVAC, and live in a hotel room for two months while all this work was being done.

My neighbor on the other side had a few of the $20 - $30 plug-in surge protectors like they sell at Lowe’s and Home Depot, and they were all fried as was everything that was plugged into them that they were allegedly protecting. The stuff that was plugged into a 240V outlet mostly survived, but their stove lost its clock and timer settings, their refrigerator’s temperature settings could no longer be adjusted, and their dryer somewhat worked but you could not set the drying time or temperature. 
After the electrician got the surge protector installed a grounded, I would have them run at least two (three is better) 120V 20amp feeds directly to your listening room for your system. Make SURE to have the electrician run each new feed to a SEPARATE breaker in your electrical panel. Your system will sound better and thank you! 😃

All of this pain could likely been avoided by both neighbors if they had simply invested in a $150 -$250 whole house surge protector properly installed and properly grounded when they moved into their home. I’m retired now, but I previously worked in the corporate world and my wife and I relocated and purchased and lived in 8 different homes over the course of my 35 year career. 
The very first thing we would do after closing and moving into our new home would be to find a reputable licensed electrician and have them install and ground a whole-house surge protector. I would next have the electrician run at least two, sometimes three dedicated 120V 20 amp circuits to the room that was going to be our listening room in the area where I was going to install our audio system. And I made certain that each of these new lines were connected to their own breaker in the fuse panel and that nothing else was shared on this circuit.

Like I said earlier we incurred zero damage from this strike, and I immediately replaced my fried whole-house surge protector after this incident. As always, YMMV 😎
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Just make sure that if you get a lot of lightning in your area that you periodically check the whole house surge protector to see if it is still functioning.


Good point.  Of the 3 I mentioned only the Siemens has an audible alert.

Juice in ground around here. Where it should be.

Thankfully I had a Panamax on my system years ago and good surges on all major appliances, as a strong surge hit locally. Fried the Panamax and a couple of other surges but saved my equipment and appliances. Neighbors werent so lucky.
   I've got to get that whole house version installed . I've been putting it off.
Hope the OP doesn’t mind if I pop in with a few questions...building a dedicated room, so I have saved the idea of dedicated lines (2 or 3). I get the recommendation for separate circuit breaker for the lines dedicated to the system from other supply to the room. Presume separating audio and video components would be ideal. What about a separate panel off the main supply? Is this overkill? Any suggestions on electrical upgrades such as medical spec. outlets?
The whole home surge protection is a definite add-on, if not mandated by code.
I’m not sure about the value off a separate panel off the main supply as you still only have the single electrical line feeding your home. I’m not an engineer but I think having separate circuit breakers for each line dedicated to your system would suffice. I had NEMA 5-20 outlets installed because I was installing 20 amp lines. 
If I had it to do over again i would have installed four 30 amp lines terminated into NEMA 5-30 outlets and one 50 amp line terminated into a NEMA 5-50 outlet. Yes, I know this is overkill but I have the space for this in my breaker panel. Many of the after market filter devices that purport to clean up your AC actually choke your AC and I don’t think ANY are rated for more than 20 amps. 
IMO more current availability through a 30 or 50 amp circuit is more important than any aftermarket filtering. And there are a very few power amps that require more than 20 amps for full power output and you need either a 30 amp circuit or two separately wired 20 amp circuits for them. HOWEVER, you may likely void your equipment warranty if it’s fed more than 20 amps. As always, YMMV 😎

NEMA Info at https://www.stayonline.com/product-resources/nema-straight-blade-reference-chart.asp