Does electricity surge damage house wiring?

There are reports on the BBC of numerous house fires after a power surge on Saturday night in North Lanarkshire.
"About 400 houses were affected by the surge which caused some electricity meters and fuses to blow in the Summerlee area of Coatbridge.
Firefighters said they were 'inundated' with calls and attended a number of small fires on Saturday night." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7479968.stm
Would the house wiring be suspect after a surge like that? Or would the main fuse blow? What about older properties with old wiring?
MM
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Wiring insulation may be damaged by a very serious over-voltage (it's not clear how large a surge they're talking about). Ultimately arcing could cause some plastics to carbonise and others to melt.
The main (and other) fuses may blow, depending what high current devices are switched on and whether they draw more current as the voltage rises (some do, some don't).
Any appliance plugged in at the time is also suspect, and even if not obviously damaged might have its lifetime shortened.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 29 Jun 2008 08:42:54 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gglz.com wrote:

Quite I'd be in touch with my insurers both contents for connected equipment and buildings for the fixed wiring to see what they say (in writing). You wouldn't want them coming back a few years down the line saying that you aren't covered for the fire caused by the TV or a fault in the fixed wiring that they say was caused by the surge.
I'd expect the insurers to want at a minimum a full installation test and PAT testing of kit that can be PAT tested.
--
Cheers
Dave.




Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 29 Jun 2008 19:55:05 +0100 (BST), "Dave Liquorice"

The report says "[Scottish Power] Workers are also conducting door-to-door inquiries to discuss potential compensation claims with residents." so it sounds like it was a massive surge and the company wants to preempt a major outcry. I wonder what an insurer would say, faced with a claim to replace a new 42" modern TV, when told that there had been a power surge just before it went phut.
MM
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

An insulation test should tell you if there's a problem, for both appliances and fixed wiring. If the insulation is shot all over the place then a total rewire is the only solution, and leaving it not done would be a fire risk. Test at 500v/1kV, not 9v.
NT
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:> > Any appliance plugged in at the time is also suspect, and even if not

An insulation test should tell you if there's a problem, for both appliances and fixed wiring. If the insulation is shot all over the place then a total rewire is the only solution, and leaving it not done would be a fire risk. Test at 500v/1kV, not 9v.
NT
Don't test at 1kV test at 500V.
Rgds Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
MM formulated on Sunday :

Very unlikely to damage the wiring, the fires were probably the result of equipment fed with too high voltage bursting into flames.
--
Regards,
Harry (M1BYT) (L)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Isn't there a CE requirement for withstanding overvoltage ?
--
geoff

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

In my experience in the case of a serious overvoltage wiring damage in a proportion of properties in highly likely.
Regards
Steve Dawson
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Stephen Dawson has brought this to us :

Modern mains wiring will normally withstand several thousands of volts, before breaking down. The only large scale breakdown of wiring insulation I have seen was due to lightning strike. I have seen lots of damage to appliances due to over voltage.
--
Regards,
Harry (M1BYT) (L)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If there was a fault in the the supply wiring where 2 or more phases came together, you may see 415V AC for a short time, that could cause a few problems for the end user! The quality of some electrical equipment can be a bit suspect. It has happened in the past though the leccy boards have a habit of denying liability!
Des
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
MM wrote:

Electricity meters are designed/approved to withstand a 6kV surge, so I would be amazed if any failed.
Jon.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tournifreak wrote:

"Surge" in this context tends to refer to transient overvoltage on a time scale of a few tens of microseconds, such as can occur when lightning strikes nearby. OTOH this thread seems to be about one of those sustained fault conditions in the supply network such as an open circuit neutral or crossed phase and neutral which results in some houses receiving close to the full 400 V line voltage of the 3-phase system for a long period.
--
Andy

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Fuses don't stop surges. First the surge exists everywhere in a circuit. Eventually, a fuse blows long after the surge was ongoing. Generally, blows as a result of the damage . Fuses are to protect humans from further damage such as fire.
Depends how large that transient voltages is. Locally, a 33,000 volts wire fell upon a 4,000 volt distribution wire. 240 volts could have risen to 2000 volts. Probably higher since meters exploded upwards of 10 meters from their pans. Meters were scattered in pieces.
Some suffered appliance damage. Others did not. GFCIs (RCDs) were also victims. Some circuit breakers tripped; others did not. No wire damage was identified. In this case, no fires were apparent.
One homeowner with 'whole house' protector had no damage other than an exploded meter and damaged meter mounting pan. Of course, that 'whole house' protector protected household wiring as well as appliances.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

NOw look what you've done. You've set w_tom off again.
--
The information contained in this post is copyright the
poster, and specifically may not be published in, or used by
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It hasn't happened here yet and probably never will, as this was doubtless a one-in-a-million event. Nevertheless, it is useful to know what the response of (a) the insurers and (b) the power company would be. For example, whether the power company might cough up for a new meter but wash its hands of any house wiring claims (or for appliances).
MM
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

True. But w_tom is in the USA, so apart from the fact that he bangs on about his hobby horses and you get no useful information, power companies may have different attitudes there!
--
The information contained in this post is copyright the
poster, and specifically may not be published in, or used by
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I don't see it as irrelevant, here a broken 25kv overhead line could drop onto a post-mounted 400v transformer output terminals. Probably highly unlikely, and I'm sure structures are designed to minimise that possibility. But I would be surprised if power distribution companies hadn't tested the probable consequences and figured out how they would clean up the mess.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

"A Scottish Power spokesman said: 'An extremely rare underground cable fault caused the damage.' "
MM
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It is a rare event. However so destructive that designs must take into account this event. As another noted, meters typically contain a spark gap to limit these voltages.
A 33,000v line shorted to distribution caused hundreds of meters to literally explode from the pan. Local power utility blamed this fault on lightning. As an act of god, the utility denied responsibility. Rules may be different in Scotland.
Many who had appliances on plug-in protectors had damaged appliances and destroyed protectors. One who had a 'whole house' protector only had an exploded meter and would have had all internal wiring protected.
Some got stuck for $thousands in damage. Others strangely had marginal damage or only tripped circuit breakers. Unknown how high the actual transient was or if any household wiring was affected. But no fires occurred during this event or after power was restored.
What was voltage on that Scottish Power underground line? Numbers provide a useful upper limit.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.