Ask Bob – June 2023

Bob Pierce headshot

Bob Pierce answers questions about energy efficiency, consumer products, and cooperative governance. He is Clearwater Power’s Chief Operating Officer and welcomes your questions on our Ask Bob page.

One of my appliances stopped working after a lightning storm. What happened, and how can I reduce the risk of future damage?

Lightning storm damage to appliances can be complex and case-specific. However, nearby lightning strikes can induce strong voltage surges in the power system.

Most of us likely have point-of-use surge protection devices, like power strips, to protect our home computers and electronics from minor surges. However, severe voltage surges have the potential to damage larger equipment and appliances.

The best way to protect against larger, more powerful surges is with whole-house surge protection. There are 2 main types:

Whole house meter-base surge protection (Type 1) is a permanently connected, hard-wired device that is usually installed at the meter between the utility’s equipment and the consumer’s home. These devices must be installed by the utility.

Whole house panel-based surge protection (Type 2) is a device installed on the consumer’s side of the meter, usually at or near the electric breaker panel. These should be installed by a licensed electrician.

Clearwater Power sells a Type-1 meter base surge protector that comes with a 15-year warranty. If a surge passes through the device, as demonstrated by the indicator light going out, and your appliances are damaged as a result, the warranty may cover the repair or replacement of the damaged units. See the manufacturer’s warranty for full details, conditions and terms.

Even with a whole-house surge protector, you’ll still want to also use point-of-use surge protection devices for maximum protection on sensitive electronic devices. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Remember to read labels before buying a power strip for surge protection and don’t overload your power strip. Adobe Stock Photo by Elena Thewise

Voltage surges can also originate inside the home, such as when a heavy electric load is switched off. Additionally, plug-strip surge protectors are generally more sensitive than whole-house units. Remember that not all power strips include surge protection, so read the packaging label carefully before you buy and remember not to overload the power
strip with too many devices.

You can also install specialized electrical outlets that offer additional surge protection. Talk to a trusted electrician to learn more.

If your home or appliances are damaged during a lightning strike, you might consider contacting your homeowner’s insurance.

Electric utilities such as Clearwater Power are only responsible for our own equipment, which ends at the “point of service” or, in other words, the electric meter. Any wiring past that point is the domain of a licensed electrician. Our lineworkers are not trained, licensed or authorized to inspect anything past our own point of service.