lightning blew up my power
July 22, 2013 12:30 PM   Subscribe

There was a huge lightning storm this morning, in the middle of it my power went out. All the breakers on my boat are on, all e breakers on the power bollard are on. The odd thing is that the bollard has power to the meters and register 5v on the ac setting of my multimeter across live and earth. Also the RCD buttons trip out the breakers. This suggests that it has power. But nothings coming out. Any ideas for a) How come it has some power but no output b) Is there anything I can do. My electrical skills = I own a nice multimeter My fear of zappy death = relatively high

Oh. Postscript: the dockmaster has called an electrician, but this feels like something that I can fix tonight, so I can run a fan and watch Arrested Development, rather than a major rewire.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
If 5V strikes you as "nominal" I think you should wait for the professional. IMHO.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may have blown out all of your power, you can call the electric company to see if there's correct output coming from the demarcation site at the poll/etc. Do you have your own electrical meter, or is that provided by the marina?

You can get a generator in the meantime.

Sorry. :-(
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2013

What's your homeport ? We call them "Ground Fault Current Interrupters" stateside. I'm just curious if you use the same three-blade twist connectors as I do here, with my 120 V mains.

You should be seeing 120V AC between the hot and neutral blades at the bollard outlet. 5V is probably just induced stray current.

I think the test buttons on most RCD/GFCI devices will trip the mechanism even when the circuit is totally disconnected. When you say "trip out the breakers" you mean that when you press Test, the RCD on which you pressed Test is the one that trips, right ?

The damage is most likely upstream of your power bollard. How are the neighbors doing ?
posted by Kakkerlak at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2013

Response by poster: It's 240v 32a supply. New weirdness.. The bollard has a big mains lamp on it that goes on after dark.
That lamp is on and when I trip the RCD/GFCI on one circuit it goes out. The bollard is definitely powered but nothing is coming out.
Neighbours circuits equally dead. It is so odd.

I think the RCD will only trip if the circuit is powered because it measures difference between live and neutral doesn't it?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:56 PM on July 22, 2013

I'm the kind of person who will take apart and screw around with basically anything, and can usually fix it. This falls in to my "nope" zone however. I would be operating under the assumption that a breaker was irreparably damaged in the storm and that anything besides somehow centrally shutting off the power to the dock and replacing the breakers at the bollard, or possibly even a "master" breaker in the several hundred amp range further up the dock somewhere.

Go to a cash america/pawn x-change(i'm sure you have those cash for your stuff/loan shop type places in the UK?) that has a 30 day no questions return policy. Buy a small generator. Return it when the power is fixed. I'd rather let some place like that hold my money for a few days and burn a few bucks worth of fuel than mess around with electrical stuff in a questionable state that isn't my property, nor is it on my property.

On preview, The lamps breaker probably didn't blow either because it's a small load of a couple hundred watts at almost no amperage, or because it wasn't on during the storm. Nothing really surprises me about that.
posted by emptythought at 1:58 PM on July 22, 2013

The presence of power to run that night lamp suggests that the problem is in your local RCD or even in your own cable or aboard.

If this were my system, I would gather up both ends of my shorepower cable (disconnected from everything) and check them for continuity, then sit on my hands and enjoy the moonlight.

The odds that somebody else is messing about shoreside while you have your hands in the bollard connections is very high. Even if you think you know the breaker number and have a personal padlock on it, I wouldn't risk it.
posted by Kakkerlak at 2:30 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're playing with fire there, OP. And zappy death. I'm an electrical engineer, and given what you've told us already, I agree with Kakkeriak- wait for the electrician folks. There's some wierd stuff going on there.
posted by drhydro at 2:57 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

The lighting is on because it is on a different circuit then the power wiring. The all of the lighting is wired together to a single timer or light sensor. Something tripped or blew upstream on the power circuit. Wait for the electrician. The 5 volts is most likely from another boat back feeding the line.
posted by ihadapony at 7:36 PM on July 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. I will indeed wait for the electrician.

Still puzzled though. The bollard lamp is feed off a supply circuit, it is in fact fed off my supply and if I cut power to my circuit it goes out. It doesn't have it's own supply.
There are only three circuits, mine, the boat next door and a spare.
So far my best guess is that it's all powered up but there is a remote switch for cutting off supply (for if you haven't paid your bills?) That has triggered. No idea if that's even a thing you can do, but nevertheless I'm not gonna mess with it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:50 PM on July 22, 2013

Best answer: It could be something like one leg of the two or three phase power coming in has gone dead. Five volts on a main is exceptionally weird and potentially dangerous.

It could also be that your outlet is fried.

So far my best guess is that it's all powered up but there is a remote switch for cutting off supply (for if you haven't paid your bills?) That has triggered. No idea if that's even a thing you can do, but nevertheless I'm not gonna mess with it.

That's not how it works. It's either on or it's off. If they have to shut your power off, they either cut the line or cap the power takeoff.
posted by gjc at 6:10 AM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: Another update:

An electrician has visited. (I wasn't there to question him, but it has been reported back to me).

A) Nothing was wrong with it.
B) It shouldn't have worked in the first place.
C) It does work now.

So I am extra confused. I assume the electrician reset the system or did something somewhere and now it works.
I actually have another electrician visiting this evening for different work, so we'll see what he says.

Thanks for all your answers.
In summary, sometimes technology is weird.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:41 AM on July 24, 2013

« Older Latin legal phrase?   |   Escalating the Freelance Billing Process Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.