Finally got struck by lightning…

It’s one of the terrors of the high desert, and one of the reasons I wanted to build down in the hollow. Neighbors J&H and D&L, having built on ridgetops, have each been struck several times, and each have spent big bucks on elaborate lightning protection.

Yesterday was my turn. Nothing dramatic, just a snapping noise accompanied by a simultaneous thunderclap, and all the LEDs went out. Since it was raining cats & dogs I didn’t know at first the extent of the damage. I had a very bad moment when I saw the internal battery monitor didn’t work…
…but examination says the supply side of the system is fine. Apparently there was a surge that took out my display, but the batteries, charge controller and solar panels are unaffected.

Unfortunately my beautiful free 4000w inverter is scrap.
This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, in fact I’ve lived in fear of this day for quite some time. So much so that – of course – I have a backup inverter. :)
Which is now installed, and so in a truncated fashion I’m back in business. I say truncated because it’s only a 1500 watt inverter, made for use in a truck or RV, and it won’t support power tools. It will run everything else in the cabin, though. It is, in fact, the first inverter I used here and has about two years on it. So it’ll work fine, and I’m very happy this happened after the siding job was done. Before would have been a problem.

A final word, you might remember that last November my older brother built a kit that let me retrofit the cabin with 12V lighting? Well, I’ve used those lights all along, but never needed them before last night. Last night, though…if I hadn’t done that work, I’d have been reduced to kerosene. Instead I had nice electric lights. So always grab a better Plan B when one comes along. At some point you’ll be glad you did.

ETA: Text msg from Landlady…

Way to demo “two is one and one is none” :)

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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8 Responses to Finally got struck by lightning…

  1. Beth says:

    Glad you and the boys, and your system, are all safe and working more or less normally.

  2. Claire says:

    So what does a non-free 4000-watt inverter cost? One that meets your particular needs?

  3. HP says:

    HP: Some good technical information on lightning strike protection –

  4. coloradohermit says:

    Ouch! Glad it wasn’t worse and that you and the boys managed so well.

  5. Zelda says:

    Joining everyone else in being glad it wasn’t worse. My computer is on a serious Isotel which was blown out last year in a minor lightning strike in my yard, computer is fine. Concern about lightning strikes made me surge protect my power supply a few years ago, glad I did, but this reminds me that I have more work to do including re-thinking my grounding. Thanks for posting this.

  6. Nosmo says:

    There are obvious prophylactic measures that can be taken, from good grounding to well-grounded air terminals, ground shunts, etc. Some of those are cheap and simple, some are mucho dinero.

    It would be tough to isolate the solar panels – they have to be in the system and operational to keep the batteries charged, and that means an operating charge controller as well. Could everything else be isolated, as in a “Frankenstein’s Castle” type of large blade switch or a removable power cable connection to provide a substantial air gap between lightning attractors and the critical bits? If I understand what you’ve described so far of your system it sounds like you could go kerosene for short periods when lightning is expected. Or, am I not understanding the scope of the issue?

  7. Joel says:

    I’ve wanted for some time to retrofit my system with blade-type cut-off switches, if only to make it less sparky to work on. But the cost of components is daunting. Real professional lightning protection would cost more than replacing fried components – though not more than replacing a burned-down cabin.

    Now I’m adding the cost of a new big inverter to that and thinking, oh lord…

  8. Robert says:

    Isn’t “two is one and one is none” one of the commandments?

    And if -Way to demo “two is one and one is none”- requires lightning from the heavens, I’d hesitate to see Joel’s demo of “Keep firing until the target either changes shape or catches fire”. On second thought, I would like to see that. Joel, Ian, y’all got anything in mind?

    Lastly, getting a good ground living in a sandbox is not something I wanna think about. Good luck.

To the stake with the heretic!