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Lightning


Raquel

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To unplug or to leave plugged? That is the question.

 

I thought that I had read somewhere in these pages that when in a lightning storm shore power should be disconnected and cable picked up off the ground. The other night we did just that. We ran around disconnecting and picking up with rain drops big enough to make us stagger when they hit. All the while, a park full of people sitting in their dry RVs laughing at the spectacle before them.

 

Our circumstances, trailer plugged into 50 amp, truck plugged into 30 amp, both with surge protectors.

 

Is unplugging and picking the cables up off the ground necessary, or even advisable? Or, should we stop running around like idiots in a rain storm?

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If there is a lot of lightning around there would be some lessening of risk in pulling the plug, especially if you do not bother to use any type of surge protection or power protective device. Opening the circuit breaker would provide some protection with the cord still in, but if a strike were close by it will easily jump an open circuit breaker so if I did that I would also remove the plug. Getting the cord off of the ground is one I have no idea why it would do anything for you other than perhaps to keep things dry so that you won't have wet hands when you connect up later.....

 

As one who made a career of repairing things electrical, I religiously use my Surge Guard line monitor device just to protect from the various power issues that can arise with no warning. Before I got one of these I did pull the plug when a lightning storm was around and put the plug where it would stay dry, but I have no idea how getting the cord off of the ground would do anything, other than keep me outside to get wet. The problem with the practice of pulling the cord to protect the RV is that it will only be effective if your problem only happens when you are in the RV and awake and if it gives you plenty of warning to allow time to do this. If that is your plan then you should probably never leave the RV plugged in when asleep or when not in the RV.

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I've been accused of "running around like an idiot" (retired electrical engineer) even when its NOT raining so I wouldn't let that bother you too much lol

 

Here's my take FWIW?

 

If I were there and the wind and dark clouds came up and/or the weather radio was issuing warnings AND ESPECIALLY IF I DIDNT HAVE A QUALITY SURGE PROTECTOR Id probably unplug, but not worry about cords laying on the ground. If I was asleep and the storm woke me I probably would NOT go out in the rain and run around like an idiot and unplug and risk being electrocuted. I agree with Kirk to some extent, tripping the breaker is a good thing and certainly reduces the risk of a damaging surge, and unless there's like a near direct strike, its not likely an arc of current is going to jump the breaker contacts, those have a pretty high voltage withstand rating you know. Of course, unplug is still safer as surging HV electricity can do weird things and jump for yards. If I were to put on my lawyers hat I would have to advise you UNPLUG lol

 

PS Im a stickler for Grounding and Electrical Safety at RV parks because Ive seen soooooooooooo many pedestals and electrical services all botched up grrrrrrrrrrr I'm always asking if you would let your standing in wet ground little barefoot grandchild touch the RV shell if its NOT properly bonded ????????

 

John T

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The problem with the practice of pulling the cord to protect the RV is that it will only be effective if your problem only happens when you are in the RV and awake and if it gives you plenty of warning to allow time to do this. If that is your plan then you should probably never leave the RV plugged in when asleep or when not in the RV.

 

Interesting logic.

 

I vote for pulling the plug -- thus lowering your chance of being fried.

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Yes, we do use surge protection. On the coach we have the TRC 34750-001-LCD 50 Amp Surge Guard.

 

Thank you, everyone, for your input. I guess we're doomed to look like idiots whenever we have an approaching lightning storm. Of course, there's the possibility that people won't perceive any difference in idiot modes. ;-)

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Yes, we do use surge protection. On the coach we have the TRC 34750-001-LCD 50 Amp Surge Guard.

 

Thank you, everyone, for your input. I guess we're doomed to look like idiots whenever we have an approaching lightning storm. Of course, there's the possibility that people won't perceive any difference in idiot modes. ;-)

LOL! Good one Raquel!

 

I'd just make sure my insurance covered lightning strikes and stay plugged in in the humid and hot South. Same in winter since the furnace won't run too long without A/C on my one or two deep cycle battery equipped fivers.

 

I won't claim any expertise but doesn't the ground wire stay connected if plugged in with the breakers off? Isn't it safer from lightening to not present the best path to ground, even to have a loose connection in water if the storm brings torrential rain as a ground? My perception is that it might be wiser to unplug anything inside you don't want to fry in a near strike and leave it plugged in and turned on to provide a safer path for current to ground, or disconnect and leave no ground. In my mind all or nothing. I forgot the water hose. We use quick connects anyway. Sewer is not going to be as good a ground as a nearby telephone pole or grounded building. Same principle as in a car.

 

Disconnected and with the line inside its storage, running only battery power, with rubber tires, and assuming no metal in contact with the wet ground, isn't that safer for the occupants biological and solid state? I'm not sure I want to present a strong path to ground with my RV as an inline fuse. We have our landing gear and rear stabilizers on big 10"X10" wood blocks anyway. Saves on the cranking, reduces wobble a bit more too. There's precious little season here where HVAC isn't needed in houses let alone the poorer insulated RVs relatively speaking.

 

Safe travels!

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What is the problem with just flipping the breaker switch off?

 

According to Wikipedia the average lightning bolt is about 30,000 Amps, but that's a direct hit. However, I'm guessing even a transient can carry enough juice to jump an open breaker.

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Good evening Star Dreamers US,

 

There's no problem with flipping off breakers which can reduce the risk of high voltage power line surges getting into some sensitive RV electronics and causing damage. The insulation integrity and voltage withstand rating between the two separated circuit breaker contacts is very high and its unlikely a power line "surge" (NOT talkin a direct lightning strike mind you) is sufficient to arc jump current through or inside the breaker and still get to sensitive RV electronic circuitry SURE ITS POSSIBLE IM NOT SAYING IT ISNT. HOWEVER if the RV is totally unplugged from the pedestal outlet, of course, that's safer, as then instead of only a matter of less then an inch separation you may have several feet between the power source and the RV Plug (but hey it may be on the wet ground and that makes a difference also you know). IM ONLY SAYING A TOTAL UNPLUG (subject to water and ground and distance) IS SAFER THEN JUST FLIPPING A BREAKER even though a flip provides a higher degree of safety versus leaving everything energized.....................

 

JUST GENERAL INFORMATION NOT RELATED TO YOUR QUESTION BUT RELEVANT TO THIS THREAD

 

Lighting protection is a different animal then protecting electronics from power line surges, although, sure, a lightning strike can induce high voltage surges. The methods utilized for lighting protection are different then those used for electronic surge protection. Lightning protection involves the bleeding off high voltage potential before it develops so much voltage and energy a strike occurs. Electronic surge protection concerns a gazillion times less energy although of sufficient voltage levels which may arc and damage sensitive electronic devices. Lightning protection may consist of 4/0 and larger braided copper cables leading from rooftop electrodes down to numerous large deep copper ground rods and ground plates, but don't imagine a wimpy 6 or 8 or 10 Gauge Equipment Grounding Conductor that's bonded to the utility Neutral which is connected to a single copper ground rod wayyyyyyyyy back at the main service is going to serve as lightning protection.

 

LIGHTNING PROTECTION AND ITS DESIGN AND FUNCTION IS NOT THE SAME AS LOW ENERGY YET HIGH VOLTAGE ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT SURGE PROTECTION

 

Again, if I'm at the RV and a storm is approaching I might flip a breaker or better yet unplug, but if its the middle of the night and the storm rises Im NOT running out in the storm and water messing with electrical cords BUT YALL DO AS YALL PLEASE IS FINE WITH ME.

 

PS FWIW if lightning were to strike, I would feel safer inside my metal jacketed RV then standing outside it.

 

Nuff Said, its impossible to cover what takes books to explain in a few sentences here so no freaking warranty lol

 

John T

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If you look at pictures of the ground at a lightning strike site you'll see a pattern where the bolt fans out across the area, if your power cord is laying on the ground inside the danger zone it probably will not be a good thing.

 

If I decided the risk was high enough I'd go out and flip the pole breaker to prevent arcing when I pulled the RV end and then unplug the power cord from the RV so it couldn't bring any power inside. Then just leaving it on the ground wasn't an issue and reconnecting was easy.

 

 

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If I unplug for safety purposes.....would it be okay to use the generator to fix dinner?

 

I sure hope so. The other night when we had to unplug everything, we started the generator. It was about 100 degrees outside and it would have been 100 inside before long.

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Question: "If I unplug for safety purposes.....would it be okay to use the generator to fix dinner?"

 

Yep its "okay" in my opinion. If the theory for unplugging is to reduce the chance of a high voltage power line surge damaging sensitive RV electronics, the genset is producing its own power independent and isolated (for the most part) from the utility. Of course if the RV is still connected to the utility (not so if unplugged) I could imagine a utility surge still getting transmitted like in a transfer switch etc. but the chances are slim. Its just that I try to cover all the bases and never say never lest some stalker jumps out of the woodwork who loves to play gotcha lol There's a far less chance a nearby lightning is going to create a surge in the generator windings then the utility with all the miles and miles of exposed in air transmission lines.

 

John T

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PS FWIW if lightning were to strike, I would feel safer inside my metal jacketed RV then standing outside it.

We sure do agree on this one. It is important to understand that not all lightning is the same size nor does it follow the same rules. I have had one very close strike to our RV and have seen the damage from two strikes on houses. The RV incident was traveling north on I-49 in LA when we got caught in a sudden violent storm. We were traveling at less than 40 mph due to heavy rain when there was a strike to the ground, perhaps 10 - 20 feet from the right front corner of our motorhome(next to Pam!) and on the grassy shoulder of the highway. The result looked nothing like what Stanley posted as I stopped dead when the blinding flash took place and once we cold see there was a completely charred spot on the shoulder of about 3' diameter or so. We didn't get out in the rain to measure or examine but we sure did take the next exit from the highway! I believe that was about 5 years ago now.

 

The two house cases were one it struck a high mounted CB antenna at a friend's house and followed it back through the radio which was not operating at the time and actually charred the wall where the wire from the outlet ran back to the circuit breaker box in the room next to where the radio was. The owner reported that nearly all of the circuit breakers in that distribution box were tripped. The other case was when lightning struck the pole where my parent's phone line came to the house. That one burned all insulation from the cable that ran to the house, damaged some wallpaper at that wall and destroyed the phone attached to the wire. Both of these incidents were more than 30 years ago so I really do not remember much detail of them.

 

The point of those stories is that if the strike happens to be right next to you, it is impossible to predict what it may do and while pulling the plug will probably help, you sure don't want to be standing next to whatever it happens to strike.

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We don't unplug or do anything special for thunderstorms. We have our EMS that should do its thing if lightening strikes nearby. Insurance will take care of the rest.

In 1989 my mother's house was struck by lightening and burned to the ground..... but that may have been because her widowed husband moved in a girlfriend 6 months after her death. :o:angry:

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Over 30 years of camping never unplugged anything never took a lighting hit .We do use surge protectors and EMS systems. We will pull the slides in if in high winds. Odds of being it by lighting is about one million to one.

 

Did have a house struck about 40 years ago.It hit a lighting rod on the chimney and bricks flew everywhere. Nothing since.

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