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Lightning Strike Clarification

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  • Lightning Strike Clarification

    OK being a So.Calif Native and never really seeing any real "lightning" storms....and seeing posts on this form about organs being damaged by lightning strikes....what actually is in the "event" that kills the organ? Is it lightning hitting the powerlines just outside the building housing the organ? Or a power surge from a lightning strike at a sub base plant? Or all the above? And will those little suppressor plug in boxes help against a force like lightning? Just curious

  • #2
    I had suppressors and lightning arresters on all my ham radio gear, long before the days of computers and much in the way of digital organs. I was told that the suppressors would cope with remote strikes on the line and handle surges OK but that if the house got a direct strike, they wouldn't help.

    I can remember dealing with one direct strike. The lightning hit the chimney stack/TV aerials and went down to ground on that side of the house. The organ wasn't plugged in but was standing against that will. It slightly fried inside, and the wallpaper behind it was burnt and blackened. That organ was a Lowrey Holiday, circa 1968. The insurance company replaced it with a Lowrey Holiday, circa 1990, 'Like for Like'. And I've consulted with insurers as an 'independent expert' from time to time. One guy got his ancient top of the line Yamaha replaced with a new top of the line Lowrey last week. IIRC that was also due to lightning damage, so it certainly does happen.
    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

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    • #3
      A direct strike that finds its way into the house wiring will fry anything plugged in and that will be the least of your worries since the house can also be set on fire. Another very dangerous, but from what I understand very rare, situation is if the outdoor pole transformer shorts but does not blow up, and that will send something like a constant 4000 volts into your house wiring. A friend of mine told me about some film he saw years ago where you could see the sparks coming right out of the outlets.
      Brownouts, surges, etc. from what I can gather are much more dangerous to sensitive newer electronic equipment as opposed to older organs. An old Hammond tone wheel organ can probably survive a dip/surge but not newer organs with ICs, etc.
      Andy, your organ actually got damaged even though it was not plugged into the wall? Scary stuff!
      Jimmy Williams
      Hobbyist (organist/technician)
      Gulbransen Model D with Leslie 204


      • #4
        Surge supression devices ( I particularly like Tripp-Lights product line) are very necessary and will protect your electronic equipment from the most common surges you are likely to experience such as power line surges caused by the power company switching capacitors, or overloads, distant lightning strikes, etc. They definately can't protect against all types of nearby electrical strikes, depending on the distance and what was hit. So if you're asking because you are wondering are they worth the investment yes they are, can they protect against everything no, but they will protect against the most common types of electrical anomalies that will show up on your power lines.


        • #5
          It's entirely possible for any electrical device to act as an antenna for stray lightening. Lightening seeks only the easiest path to ground and, if that path happens to be through your organ, there likely will be damage as the voltage is far beyond anything it was designed to handle. And it doesn't necessarily have to be plugged in either.
          "The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like." St. Pius X


          • #6
            While nothing stands a chance against lightning, some of the products by Panamax and Furman are INCREDIBLE - they even go so far as to warranty your the devices that you have plugged in (obviously some conditions here....) They are also relatively inexpensive for what they do.



            Drew A. Worthen


            • #7
              I've been hit as many times as anybody, I suppose. Houston Texas, Herington Kansas, Jeffersonville IN all have their share of lightning packed storms. A direct full energy hit is rare, since TV antennas, the spark gap device, and the associated ground rod act as a "lightning rod" on most houses I have inhabited. I was in a metal building once where the lighning went through the truss outside our shop, the sound was enormous. No damage but a lot of black stuff.
              I have had the Dynaco ST70 tube amp and PAS2 tube preamp, develop a condition where the power switch (slide switch) was arced across, and the turn off pop capacitor (1000 VAC .01 uf) had a leg burned off. I call that event a "lightning strike". Besides the TV/lightning rod, surges that come in through the power line probably go through the AC motor, or refrigerator motor, or blower motor. So the event is somewhat damped out, but probably above 1000 VDC (rating on the caps) with significant energy. I've had the ST120 transistor power amp do the same thing, same symptoms.
              None of the tube Hammonds, one of which lived on top of a hill in Cincinnati, had any symptoms of lightning strike. But the power switch on a Hammond was a largeish toggle switch, not a cheesy slide switch like the dynaco equipment had.
              I was watching a 1982 RCA tv once when blue flame popped out of the lower control door, at the same time as a flash/bang event. So I count that as a lightning strike. Oddly enough, there was no damage, although the computer control board developed symptoms the next year which required replacement.
              I have had industrial VFD drives blown at work, simultaneous with a big storm. If the lightning doesn't cause pyrotechnic effects, the 460 VAC does on the damaged devices inside. They are usually mounted in a NEMA12 SS case, but have lexan front windows so you can see the codes, so you can see the fireworks as they blow up. VFDs have MOS supressors on the input rated 500 V, but those are cumulative devices. The more times they are struck the more likely they are to short across the next time.
              I've taken to putting these salvage MOS supressors out of VFDs between hot and neutral and between neutral and case on my hifi equipment, on the theory that they can't hurt anything. Blowing a 3 amp fuse at 120 VAC does not produce the fireworks a 20 amp fuse can do at 460 VAC.
              Most "protection "devices sold to consumers are a power strip with one MOS supressor wired between neutral and ground. The more you pay, the more energy the MOS device will take before shorting. The VFD's have 15 mm (high energy) devices but the R**** S**** power strip I bought didn't. Those were 7 mm. After the "protection" led went out on that device, I took a strike through the phone line and modem that burnt out the PCI slot on the computer main board. The college operating system teacher said that most strikes on computers were through the phone line (modem) as actual carbon element rotary dial telephones are nearly impervious to lightning, and the telephone company wasn't doing anything at the time to protect people's fancy toys. Older modems, before MOS supression devices were invented, had spark gap disks in them, a pair of steel plates with a bit of plastic in between them.
              After a lightning storm pretty well shut down the entire PC based office computer system of GE appliance park due to blown external modems and worse , the next year fiber optic was installed between all the buildings and the Bell multipair cabling was cut up for scrap.
              Organs since 1970 are transistor devices and should act the same as a transistor amp. That is the transformer may keep the events limited to outside it, if the organ is not cabled to wiring all over the building (speaker wiring). Speaker wiring could pick up strikes and conduct energy inside the transformer boundary, blowing up nearly anything it touches, since most stuff is rated 25 VDC or lower.
              Organs built after 1982 will have switcher power supplies, which can be protected with MOS suppressors, ferrite toroids on the mains wiring, and other tricks, but probably are not. I was quite impressed how the Ishida switcher supply packaging machines were able to take strike after strike without damage, while microprocessor based printers in the same location were frequently blown up.
              Some guy on diyaudio recommends arc supression tubes as even better than MOS arc supressors, but they are pretty expensive, so they had better be. I've never run into one in equipment I've serviced.
              city Hammond H-182 organ (2 ea),A100,10-82 TC, Wurlitzer 4500, Schober Recital Organ, Steinway 40" console , Sohmer 39" pianos, Ensoniq EPS, ; country Hammond H112