Lightening Strike Destroyed My Electronics
This post was long overdue. It happened a while ago, but I have been postponing it since there were so many other important topics to cover. While the year 2020 have given us a massive blow in the form of COVID-19, I was sustaining some other injuries along the way ;). Not physical ones though. Early in the year Franklin Ultra dropped the bomb that Vodafone papers will be marked to zero. Then COVID-19 issues started in India and the country went into a lock-down. Next, Franklin wiped out a good portion of my investment by winding up six funds. A large portion of my investment was in Franklin Ultra Short Term debt funds. That resulted in me dipping into my emergency fund for the first time. Well there is a first time for everything :).
In between all this chaos, there were a couple of other troubles brewing. One was that my wife and kid were planning a trip to their home town. They planned the trip before the lock-down and COVID situation. But unfortunately thanks to lock-down, we had to postpone the trip 3 times so far. Every time there was a charge for changing the date. While the airlines claim that changing the date is free during COVID, that is not entirely true. Some costs do accrue.
The other problem we faced during lockdown was an unexpected heavy rain and thunderstorm. Normally, rain is always welcome :). But in this case, the lightening took a heavy toll on my electronics. You see, whenever there is a thunderstorm, we normally unplug all the expensive electronics. However, in this particular case, the lightening was not a result of high voltage in power lines. Instead, it was through the internet cable lines!
Lightening fried my electronics
A lightening strike a few feet from our house caused a discharge through our internet cable lines. The surge went through my router and burnt it. A lot of routers in our layout were destroyed in similar fashion. The sound of the discharge was so loud, it was unbelievable. But the people who were most shaken were our neighbors. The neighbor was doing something outside when the lightening went straight through the tree in their house. Lucky it didn't strike them.
Anyway, my router thus got fried. Unfortunately my router was connected to my media center via CAT5 cable. So the surge passed through the media center device and burnt it. As you can imagine, the media center is connected to my 5.1 surround system. Which got fried. The surround sound system is of course connected to TV, so I guess you can image what happened next :). My Nintendo Wii which was connected to the TV -- fried. All of that in a few milliseconds.
Learn from the past
It is not like this is the first time that this happened. A similar event happened in 2012. At that time a lightening caused a high voltage spike to rip through my 5.1 music system, TV and media center almost exactly like how it happened this time. All of them got burnt. Did I not learn my lesson? I did, but this time it was not from 220V line. Who could have imagined a surge from internet cable will have the same destructive effect. By the way, before you ask, I do have surge protectors and also voltage stabilizer back in 2012 and even now. But this time no surge protector or stabilizer can help because the surge was from Ethernet cable.
Nothing can stop death if the time is up :). Anyway, I lost
- Router - Rs. 3K
- Media center - Rs. 10K
- Surround system - Rs. 40K
- TV - Rs. 100K
- Wii - Rs. 15K
A cool Rs. 1.7 lakhs worth of electronics bit the dust. This is what happens if you have too much stuff in life. Anyway, the most unfortunate one was the Nintendo Wii which my parents and daughter used to enjoy playing. Not easy to find one now. So you can't put a price on that. But wait, there is more! I am not sure if my speakers and sub woofer survived. I could not check them since the AVR fried. Otherwise that could be another Rs. 60K.
I did not mention when this happened now did I? The timing cannot be any worse. It happened on April 5, 2020. Just 10 days after the commencement of the very first lockdown in India due to COVID-19. I am now left without internet and without a possibility to either order online or go buy it from a local store! All thanks to the lockdown. I called up the internet provider and they said they might have some spare routers. But given the lockdown, they said it might take some time to get the permission letter and distribute routers to all the people whose routers have gone puff. The permission letter is required to be shown to the cops before a vehicle can get on the roads during lockdown. What am I supposed to do until they arrive?
Thankfully, I had an old router lying around. Because we practice minimalism, we normally get rid of things that are not used in the last 6 months. Somehow, this one time, we did not donate the stuff. Just sheer luck I guess. Even in the darkest moment, there is a glimmer of hope. I set it up and saved the day. Eventually the internet service provider came and offered a cheap router (not free, but for purchase). I declined since I've got my old one working. This one act had a profound impact on what would happen next. Will write about it in my next post.
I wondered if I can repair and salvage a few things. Back in 2012, I replaced a fried main board in my TV and it worked well. So, I opened my router, media center and music system to check for fried boards/ICs or blown capacitors. The hope was to see if I can find something that I can desolder and solder back a new one. Nothing. In the router and media center, the boards are visibly fried. The Pioneer music system is probably salvageable but it is beyond my expertise. Especially since I could not find the service manuals for the specific model. Have to visit a service center if they are open now after the lock-down.
I checked a few voltages on the music system but did not find any obvious issues. There is standby voltage. On pressing power button, the relay is turning on the main transformer. So the power board seems to be working fine. I checked the amplifier sub-system. All the readings seem to be with in the tolerance values. The amplifier board must be fine too. The LCD display lights up, so that board is working. Seems like the most likely cause is a fried main board, which is also the most expensive to replace. However, I did not notice anything obvious on the main board. No blown or bulged capacitors. No burnt solder traces on the PCB. Nothing.
And if you thought that the mess ended here, you'd be wrong. There was more in store which I will cover in my next post. Sometimes you just can't be prepared for the black swan events. You have to go with the flow :).