2 Blown/Faulty GFCIs and Garage Door Opener

hefty64May 31, 2011

Hey guys. I have a new vacation home which I have owned for one year. The area I am in gets quite a few thunderstorms in the late spring/summer.

Last summer I lost a garage door opener controller and a GFCI after thunderstorms. I was not there when it happened, and frankly don't know for sure if the reason I lost them was thunderstorms or not, but they were working, and then they weren't, and both ocurred after a thunderstorm at different times. I replaced the door opener controller and GFCI outlet and have had no problems since.

I was just back up last weekend after thunderstorms in the area, and a different GFCI in the other bathroom was gone along with a battery tender for my ATV. I replaced the GFCI and it seems to be working fine. The battery tender (connected to another outlet in the garage) is dead.

I know nothing about electrical wiring and was scared to death replacing the GFCIs (the garage door company did the garage door controller). Have a few questions:

-Should I be concerned that something other than power surges (like improper wiring) is the reason for my problems and should I have the electrician come and check every thing out?

-Are some houses just more susceptible (or more unlucky) to surges than others?

-Is there anyway to mitigate the power surge problem? I have read a bit about whole house surge supressors, but no very little about them or how effective they are.

-Does it make sense to hook a single outlet surge protector to the garage door opener?

Thats a bunch, but thanks in advance!

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brickeyee

"Should I be concerned that something other than power surges (like improper wiring) is the reason for my problems and should I have the electrician come and check every thing out?"

Probably not.

"-Are some houses just more susceptible (or more unlucky) to surges than others?"

Yes.
Proximity to actaul strikes, coupled with poor or inadequate grounding of the house system can contribute.
If lightning strikes nearby (within a few hundred yards) it IS going to couple into the wiring itself from the rapid changes in the magnetic field that accompany the strike.
There is not a lot you can do about the coupling except use metal shielding to try and attenuate it.

"-Is there anyway to mitigate the power surge problem? I have read a bit about whole house surge supressors, but no very little about them or how effective they are."

They are effective on clamoing off voltage sirges that are created by the magenetic coupling in the permanent wiring.
They cannot help with the coupling that occurs inside equipment.
The GFCI has a very high turn count pickup coil that is used to sense current imbalances. If the magnetic field from a strike happens to line up with the coil it can induce voltages high enough to damage the electronics the coil is attached to.

"-Does it make sense to hook a single outlet surge protector to the garage door opener?"

It might, but there is no way to tell if the coupling is with the permanent wiring or the electronics boards themselves.
It can even vary with the exact location and strength of a strike relative to the equipment.

The suppressor might protect the electronics five time, then a strike at a different location allows the electronics to be destroyed with a single small strike.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:36PM
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brickeyee

The fact that a garage door opener contains a radio receiver makes them even more vulnerable.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:37PM
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hefty64

Wow... Thanks for the quick response.. Really appreciate it. Now the $64,000 question brickeyee-if this were your house (understand you would probably never have a house that has this type of problem, but..), would you install a whole house supressor or take any other action?

I know you say a whole house supressor would help if the surges "are created by the magenetic coupling in the permanent wiring". If this is the case, I assume installing a whole house supressor would help, but can it hurt (cause more problems) to install one of that is not the issue?

If a whole house supressor might work, any idea on the type/brand thay might be most effective?

You also indicate part of the problem may be "poor or inadequate grounding of the house system ". Is there anyway (within reason) to correct this or beef it up?

Thanks again for your response!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:47PM
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brickeyee

"I assume installing a whole house supressor would help, but can it hurt (cause more problems) to install one of that is not the issue? "

It will not hurt anything (except maybe your wallet) and might help.

The lack of metal in most equipment enclosures only makes the electronics more vulnerable.

You might try and notice if there have been any outright strikes nearby, but outside of metal enclosures (preferably grounded) for vulnerable equipment there is really not much you can do.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 5:10PM
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