power surge electrical system

Power Surge and Lightning Damage

Summer storms can bring about the chance for lightning strikes, which may harm electrical systems. However, in some cases, the power surge following a lightning strike may actually be the culprit of a system issue.

Electrical engineers can help examine equipment failures to provide certainty to the cause of loss and help uncover the truth of the age-old mystery, power surge or lightning damage.

What is a Power Surge?

A power surge is a sudden increase of voltage (or current) and can be caused by multiple anomalies, such as a tree falling on a power line causing a break in overloaded electrical installations or a problem with utility equipment. Power surges require a point of entry into a piece of equipment, so the surge must come through a power line and not a low voltage networking, cable or communication line. In many cases, surges are not long enough or powerful enough to cause much damage to equipment, as most equipment is designed to handle some type of overvoltage. But that is not the case for all equipment, as some can be much more sensitive to an incoming surge than others. These determinations can be challenging as the damage may not happen immediately and may be latent.

Our electrical experts have seen several forms of a power surge, including artificial surges, and have investigated patterns of damage, possible electricity paths and equipment components, sometimes at a printed circuit board level, to determine the cause of loss on various forms of equipment such as:

  • Computers and servers
  • Smart systems
  • Telecom systems
  • Commercial and industrial controls
  • HVAC/Boilers
  • Security systems
  • Electrical distribution systems
  • Well pumps

Types of Lightning Damage

Like a power surge, lightning also needs a point of entry, but this can include any interface in which a piece of equipment is “connected” which could mean the power supply, phone interface, network ports cable connections and antennas. Lightning damage is typically instantaneous and catastrophic due to the immense amount of energy. It’s not uncommon for property owners to discover lightning damaged equipment weeks after a storm during the repair process as damage can be extensive.

Lightning can cause damage by two methods including surge from a direct strike and surge via a phenomenon called inductive coupling. With direct strikes, it’s important to look at the surrounding area for other visible damage including damaged trees, chimneys or fences and may include visible charring or burning. These types of strikes are what one typically thinks of with lightning damage. Surge by inductive coupling occurs when the magnetic field created by a strike induces a voltage in a long cable system. This works like a car antenna coupling a radio station’s signal into your stereo. Although the surge generated may be relatively small compared to a home’s electrical system, in a low voltage system, the surge may be orders of magnitude greater than the tiny electronic components, and the components at the ends of the connecting cable can become damaged.

Our engineers can determine the scope and extent of damage to systems damaged by lightning or surge and can conduct visual inspections and perform quantitative and operational testing to verify the damage. Our engineers work with equipment vendors to determine not only the extent of the damage but also determine the most cost-effective and timely means of restoring the damaged equipment to a pre-loss condition in the shortest amount of time.

Envista’s electrical engineers can help with:

  • Investigate and opine on the cause of loss
  • Scope and extent of damage
  • Obtaining a lightning verification (99%+ probability)
  • Confirm wear and tear versus power surge or lightning damage
  • Work with equipment vendors and act as a liaison
  • Determine a reasonable timeframe for repair or replacement
  • Conduct market research to determine the cost
  • LKQ (like kind quality) analysis
  • ACV (actual cash value) research and calculation
  • Laboratory analysis of damaged equipment
  • Potential subrogation opportunities
  • Fraud-related claims
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