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-   -   Overheated Wiring & Electrical Surges ( 07-07-2006 11:03 AM

Overheated Wiring & Electrical Surges
My sister-in-law had a storm cause some damage to her house. A large tree fell on the front of the house, the transformer (not hit by the tree) went out, a surge protector caught on fire and numerous electrical items throughout the house were ruined. We're not sure if the massive surge was due to lightning or the transformer. To test the electrical wiring, I've been told that every circuit needs to be load tested. My first question is, if the wiring can still take a full load due to it not being broken or weakened, how can you tell that the integrity of the wire insulation hasn't been compromised and possibly cause a fire in the future. Will you be able to tell by pulling the receptacles and switches and inspecting only the ends of the wires? My second question is why do surge protectors have a tendency to catch on fire more so than other devices during a massive surge? I've heard of other people having their surge protector catch on fire. She had also purchased an expensive, popular brand which cost $80.00, so it supposedly wasn't poor quality. My third question is what else can you do to protect your house and appliances from a massive surge from lightning or a transformer besides installing a panel surge protector and local surge protectors?
Any thoughts would be appreciated

Square Eye 07-07-2006 03:09 PM

Some surge protectors convert electricity to heat by resistance. This heat will occasionally be too much for the unit to withstand. Lightning is more than just a surge. Surge protection is not quite lightning protection. There are whole house surge protectors, Try your $80.00 x 10. They have to be professionally installed and are usually a commercial device. APC seems to have a really good product. They offer insurance for your equipment and the protector. Their warranty is good and I have known people who have used it. I personally had an APC unit on an old sattelite dish. I had to reset the unit one time in 5 years. The unit costs around $130.00. Worth it if you ask me.

asbestos 07-07-2006 08:26 PM

We had 2 fires here on the island which were both linked to a certain type of surge protector SL Waber these were the strip type and this was 5 years or more ago. This was due to the unit degrading over time. 07-11-2006 08:04 PM

Thanks for the responses about the surge protectors. Would anyone know about checking the wiring? How do you know for sure that the wiring is safe without re-wiring the whole house?

Square Eye 07-11-2006 08:34 PM

The circuit breakers are supposed to trip before the heat gets too high, but the temperature goes up so fast in a dead short, that a breaker can't possibly stop quick enough. You could get a temporary light stringer with 10 100 watt light bulbs on it. Plug it in and see if it blows the breakers. It would be equivalent to a 1000 watt appliance. OR, plug an air compressor in and let it run a full cycle. If it holds, you are probably OK.

The only way to be absolutely sure of the condition of the insulation, would be to visually inspect the wire. Dis-coloration would be tan, brown or black. The wire may be OK with tan or brown (toasted), but black wire needs immediate attention. The trouble spots would be at tight turns and where the wire is bunched together with other wires, like where the wire goes through the top nailer plate down into the walls, especially at the panel.

Get a good flashlight and go search the attic. AND yes, check the wire where it enters the boxes. Look for coloring in the box where the wire is bent or crowded with other wires.

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