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Question DetailsAsked on 3/8/2018

Do I need to get an electrician to look at my electrical panel for safety? Burned power strips after power outage.

We had a bad storm to come through and knock out our power. It came back on, but in order for it to work, we had to reset the breaker box for each switch. Once we did that , we found that several of our power strips burnt and melted, so we unplugged all of them and reset again to get all lights back on. Three days later, I tried to plug in a power strip/surge protector that did not burn up, and this too started to pop and smoke. Do I need to get an electrician in to see what is wrong?

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I certainly would - obviously the plug strips were fried, presumably by an overvoltage - which means household wiring (inside and out) could also have been damaged. I would get a complete wiring/circuitry check - as well as a check of all appliances which were connected at the time - washer, dryer, range, dishwasher, HVAC, etc.


Check with your power company - some will accept responsibility for an over-voltage event - though normally NOT if caused by a storm.


I have seen houses hit by high voltage (lightning or crossed high and lower voltage power lines) where there were significant portions of outlets and light fixtures and such arced and burnt, with missing/burned off insulation, which later had continuing electrical problems - including a couple which had major fires because of it.


I would talk to your insurance company unless you have a real high deductible - because a thorough check of all appliances can run $300-500 range, and a wiring check - pulling and inspecting every outlet and light fixture and such (and don't forget outdoor ones and any car heater or charging plug-ins) can run $500-800 not including any repairs.


Another risk - check all your chargers for toys, electronic devices, etc which were plugged in at the time for any signs of burnt prongs, deformed or melted plastic or wires, etc - and I would not be surprised if you find electronic devices and furnace control boards are fried. By the time all is said and done, damage from a major overvoltage event can run into the many thousands - in some cases requiring total rewiring of the house if it was a high voltage surge (like 4160 or 7200V say).


Surges from a 480V crossover commonly do not cause major house wiring problems assuming it was very short-lived (line breaker or circuit interruptor blew), but tends to just fry attached devices. IF you have an old house, this can be a blessing in disguise - I remember one house with asbestos paper insulated wiring and screw-in fuses which got all-new wiring up to current code (with about triple the load capacity) courtesy of insurance.


One other thing - if all the breakers were tripped - that means they overloaded from the shorting or arcing within their individual circuits - so every circuit is suspect. And the breakers themselves may also have been damaged - generally, after that sort of overload manufacturers (and the NFPC - National Fire Protection Code - as I recall) recommend replacement of all breakers because they may not function properly in the future. That alone, assuming the wiring in the box is OK, can be at least several hundred to $1000 or more alone.


Also - utility shouold e called to check their wiring and the meter and such.


And any surge protector/plug strip that was plugged in should be assumed to be damaged and dangerous. Every GFCI should also be removed and checked and tested - it is likely a goodly number of them burned out the GFCI innards too.


And don't forget to check things that do not function in winter or you forget about - A/C, any water treatment system, pump, 120V feed fire/smoke/CO/water leak/freezer failure/power failure/security alarms, thermostats (even though low voltage, could have had high voltage back-feed from the appliance), pool electrical, doorbell transformer, outdoor lighting (floodlight and low voltage yard or drive) or recreational powered items, irrigation system controls (and pump if it has one), septic or sump pump alarms, sump pump, whole house or fans, reefer, deep freeze if you have a separate one, etc. Think through EVERY electrical items in the house which was plugged in at the time.


Answered 8 months ago by LCD




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