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Old 06-26-2011, 09:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Protection from lightning

Our house was hit by lightning last weekend and took out a few things like our intercom system, garage opener, speakers, etc. Luckily none of the computers were zapped. Is there any way to protect computers from this? I know they sell surge protectors, but didn't think they were made to stop a lightning strike.

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Old 06-26-2011, 10:24 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

Most good surge protectors and back-up power supplies are designed to protect your equipment in the event of a lightning strike. But the affected structure must be properly wired and grounded for warranty services.

Often times items like an intercom or garage door opener are installed by a homeowner or some other unqualified individual who improperly power these devices.
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Old 06-26-2011, 03:26 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

My understanding was that surge protectors can't protect against a direct lightning strike, so will likely get one to protect against indirect strikes and other voltage spikes, and just unplug my computer when a bad storm comes or I leave the home (including the network cable). I'm curious if anyone has any good surge protector recommendations.

Found this regarding direct strike protection: http://stormhighway.com/lmwn5.shtml

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Old 06-27-2011, 09:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

Quote:
My understanding was that surge protectors can't protect against a direct lightning strike
That link is correct. NOTHING can protect you from a "direct" strike. Lightning voltages are so high, if something is in its direct "path", it has the "potential" to just blast through it, or "arc" around, past or over it.

I've been pushing UPS for computers for 20 years - ever since a power outage during a firmware update killed a sever motherboard. Not pretty. But it got me the UPS funding I'd been hollering for.

ALL computers should be on a "good" UPS with AVR. Note the AVR (automatic voltage regulation) is the bread and butter here. A surge and spike protector is little more than a fancy and expensive extension cord as they do absolutely nothing for abnormal low voltage events like dips (opposite of spikes) and sags (opposite of surges), long duration sags (brownouts). And for abnormal high voltage events, they merely chop off ("clamp") the tops off the sine-waves. That leaves a not-so-pretty voltage waveform in its wake, and more work (and generated heat) for the PSU's regulator circuits.

A "good" UPS with AVR will help shape (regulate) the sine-wave into something more easily used by the devices plugged into it. And in low voltage events, it will use the batteries to boost the signal. And in extreme high voltage events, it will use the batteries to dump the excess into (which batteries can absorb with ease - one of their nice characteristics).

Note I keep saying "good" UPS with AVR. Like power supplies, there are cheap, good, and best. The best are very expensive, $400 or more. The ATX Form Factor standard requires all PSUs to "hold" voltages for 19ms (milliseconds) minimum during abnormal low voltage power events. A "good" UPS can react within that time frame.

Note, until now I've said nothing about power during a total power outage - that's because that's just the icing on the cake - and I live in "Tornado Alley" where severe weather is not uncommon. The AVR is the key thing. And note that bad (or good) climate areas have little to do with it. Any major appliance in your home can produce destructive anomalies. A $15, 1500W hair dryer made in some obscure factory in the backwoods of China, using parts from a similar factory upriver comes to mind. Note that anomalies originating from a faulty high-wattage appliance inside the house are why "whole-house" protectors are not good enough.

Finally, with a properly sized UPS, you can protect your computer, your monitor (handy when trying to finish what you are doing during an outage), or monitors (if LCD), and all your network gear with ease. And most come with software to interface with your OS to automatically save your work and "gracefully" shut down Windows and your computer before the batteries run out.

The downside is UPS batteries need to be replaced about every 3 years - with 90% of the difficultly being the batteries are pretty darn heavy.
(Radio Shack will recycle your old batteries, to keep them out of landfills )
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Old 06-27-2011, 10:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

^ Nice post, +rep.
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Old 06-27-2011, 07:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

Yes, nice post. I'm not so concerned about battery backup, so do they make "small battery" varieties that will take care of the spikes but not necessarily provide battery backup in case of a total outage? Can anyone recommend some reasonably priced, good quality UPS/AVRs?

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Old 06-27-2011, 11:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

Quote:
Can anyone recommend some reasonably priced, good quality UPS/AVRs?
I like APC. You need to determine the size you need first.
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:16 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

We use APC a lot at work, confirmed they're pretty good. That being said we bought some pretty big models think it cost us 15-19k per unit?
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

I work at a place where batteries can be recycled and a guy brought in 25 lawnmower size batteries from a UPS. And I think he said it was $45,000 (or maybe he said $15k?) to replace the whole thing! I have no idea what it was be used for.
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Protection from lightning

Servers most likely.
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