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Old 08-18-2016, 12:12 AM   #1
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Lightning Strike

Newbie question:

Probably been asked a thousand time....Sorry.

Are there any protections for life and trailer systems in the new Airstreams. We're ready to take delivery on a 2017 Classic soon. Don't really want to be a crispy critter while leaning against the aluminum skins during a storm, nor lose all the electrical systems.

Thanks, Paul
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Old 08-18-2016, 12:33 AM   #2
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Hi, I bought an inline 30 amp surge protector for my trailer, but seldom ever use it. If I think there might be a thunderstorm, I will use it. If the storm is already in action, I won't go out and install it. Too dangerous.
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Old 08-18-2016, 01:46 AM   #3
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Lightning Strike

The aluminum skin of the trailer would provide some real protection to occupants in a lightning storm, however, there are very few places that are safe when a very powerful bolt strikes, not even a residence.

Leaning against the outside of a trailer? Not so much.

In a lightning storm take cover inside of your Airstream, it should be at least as safe as the average home.

Electronics? If a trailer takes a direct hit, or a close hit along the electrical supply, there are no devices that can save your electronics. My guess is anything with a microprocessor is going to pretty much be toast.

(I was in a house that took a direct hit in the 80s, fried radios, and it put pink patches in every TV screen...... It was kinda cool, every light in the house came on, but it didn't blow out a lot of bulbs... since the power crossed a multitude of open switches, there is not much of anything that could have saved electronics)

It was a big bolt, it put two little holes and one big hole in the roof.....


Gradiens super tenui glacie.
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Old 08-18-2016, 02:03 AM   #4
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Good one on the electronics, I'll assume they are toast.

As far as life safety I was really thinking if we happened to be leaning/touching the skin on the "INSIDE" of the trailer, not outside...seems like this is really the only RV where the inside would have direct conductivity to the outside.

Thanks, Paul
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Old 08-18-2016, 04:24 AM   #5
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Dont count on being inside an Airstream as the best protection from lighting, true it is better than standing outside, and yes it does act as a Faraday cage somewhat. I work for a lab with a 4 million volt accelerator and I have seen what large sparks do inside of closed metal containers.
Although low level voltages typically only travel through electrical conductors, high voltage (lightning) will prefer to travel the shortest distance between two points. Without getting into the physics of it all, if you are stuck in your camper in a storm, avoid using anything electrical, the water, and avoid touching metal parts.

On that note, we were camping last weekend in our 1984 Excella 270 Motorhome. Several large storms came through the area and we were in a area somewhat protected by hills and trees from a direct hit.
My girlfriend was just about to enter the motorhome when a bolt of lightning struck nearby. She claims she got a shock as she touched the door as the lightning struck. I thought it must be the alcohol or a psychosomatic reaction to the flash?
I thought about it a min. and it may not be to far fetched. Being a large, ungrounded metal object in a electrical field created by the lighting bolt, the Airstream could act as one plate of a capacitor and could charge up, then discharge through any grounded object, ie The Girlfriend with her hand on the door and feet on the damp ground.
I am not going to retry the experiment myself to see if it was true.
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Old 08-18-2016, 05:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OSIN View Post
Newbie question:

Probably been asked a thousand time....Sorry.

Are there any protections for life and trailer systems in the new Airstreams. We're ready to take delivery on a 2017 Classic soon. Don't really want to be a crispy critter while leaning against the aluminum skins during a storm, nor lose all the electrical systems.

Thanks, Paul
Its called insurance.
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Old 08-18-2016, 05:57 AM   #7
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Leaning against the side of the trailer is no different from leaning against a tree when it gets struck by lightning.
Our trailer was struck by lightning, luckily the only lasting effects was the converter started acting goofy. I ended up replacing it.
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Old 08-18-2016, 08:10 AM   #8
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Lightning Strike

Quote:
Originally Posted by WayneG View Post
Dont count on being inside an Airstream as the best protection from lighting, true it is better than standing outside, and yes it does act as a Faraday cage somewhat. I work for a lab with a 4 million volt accelerator and I have seen what large sparks do inside of closed metal containers.
Although low level voltages typically only travel through electrical conductors, high voltage (lightning) will prefer to travel the shortest distance between two points. Without getting into the physics of it all, if you are stuck in your camper in a storm, avoid using anything electrical, the water, and avoid touching metal parts.

On that note, we were camping last weekend in our 1984 Excella 270 Motorhome. Several large storms came through the area and we were in a area somewhat protected by hills and trees from a direct hit.
My girlfriend was just about to enter the motorhome when a bolt of lightning struck nearby. She claims she got a shock as she touched the door as the lightning struck. I thought it must be the alcohol or a psychosomatic reaction to the flash?
I thought about it a min. and it may not be to far fetched. Being a large, ungrounded metal object in a electrical field created by the lighting bolt, the Airstream could act as one plate of a capacitor and could charge up, then discharge through any grounded object, ie The Girlfriend with her hand on the door and feet on the damp ground.
I am not going to retry the experiment myself to see if it was true.

At my place of work a large tree was hit by a strong bolt of lightning which topped about 20 or more feet from the top of the tree.

There is a chainlink fence about 30' from the tree that carried electricity about 300 feet to an opening where a gate was in place. It was obvious where an arc had burned across the 3" gap, as well as through the chain that locked the gate. The bolt then proceeded along the fence to cause damage to electronics in the building.

Keep in mind that this fence was grounded every 20 feet by a post sunk in concrete and by a large cross section of chain link that drug the ground.

I believe your girlfriend...


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Old 08-18-2016, 08:28 AM   #9
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With boats and Airstreams it you get hit by a direct strike you are going to experience damage of some degree. All the fancy high tech do dads are not going to help. My live aboard cruising sailboat was hit twice and all electronics were trashed. Last summer a brand new Airstream two spots over from me at a local state park took a direct hit. Again all electronics and most wiring was toast. The new owner was on his first shake down trip. The owner was in the trailer and was severely burned on his back. I do not know about their insurance coverage or the eventual outcome of any claims.
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Old 08-18-2016, 08:36 AM   #10
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Found these shots online:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/airstreamlife/sets/72157627345359276/show/

From here: http://maze.airstreamlife.com/2011/08/03/1185/

. . . a blog by Rich Luhr: http://maze.airstreamlife.com/about/

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Old 08-18-2016, 08:58 AM   #11
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Lightning strikes happen because a static charge builds up on the item being struck. Static charges can build up on anything, and any object with a static charge can attract lightning— lightning happens when the closest path for the static charge to dissipate is from the object to an overhead cloud.

You can provide some protection against direct lightning strikes by grounding your trailer to earth to help ensure that your trailer is at the same electrical potential as your surroundings and thereby minimize the buildup of static charges. Most people don't carry equipment to ground their trailers, and for good reason— the ideal way would be an 8' copper or uncoated rebar ground rod driven into the earth nearby (one at each end of a long trailer), and a pair of heavy-duty automotive jumper cables clamped to the ground rod and your trailer frame (both cables attached side-by-side to provide double the conductors to ground). Easy enough to do at home where the ground rod(s) can be permanently installed, not so easy at a campsite.

The best protection for your electrical and electronic devices (not the trailer) is to unplug your shore power altogether (at both ends) the first time you hear thunder off in the distance, and turn off all the electrical devices inside that you don't need. A lightning strike on the electrical grid is far more likely than a lightning strike directly on your trailer, so being disconnected from the grid is a good thing. Just turning off the breakers isn't enough; a lightning strike may have enough electrical potential to arc across an open breaker.
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Old 08-18-2016, 09:01 AM   #12
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Last year lightning struck somewhere nearby and ran into my Excella via the electrical cord.
It melted the cord end where it was plugged into the 30 to 50 adapter.
The fan motor in the air conditioner was toast.
It ruined one of the batteries.
The thermostat in the refrigerator will not adjust now but the fridge still runs fine.

Strange how one appliance is not affected while the others are damaged.

The campground utilities were damaged so that the circuit my trailer was on had to be replaced. Power was off for several days.
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Old 08-18-2016, 09:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWCHIEF View Post
With boats and Airstreams it you get hit by a direct strike you are going to experience damage of some degree. All the fancy high tech do dads are not going to help. My live aboard cruising sailboat was hit twice and all electronics were trashed. Last summer a brand new Airstream two spots over from me at a local state park took a direct hit. Again all electronics and most wiring was toast. The new owner was on his first shake down trip. The owner was in the trailer and was severely burned on his back. I do not know about their insurance coverage or the eventual outcome of any claims.
+1

No surge protector will make any difference if you get a direct hit.
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Old 08-18-2016, 10:02 AM   #14
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The one time a man was right.

I've told this story before…IT HAS NO SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY CONCERNING THE SAFETY OF AIRSTREAMS IN A THUNDERSTORM.

My gal was visiting with her friend, having " A " cocktail, underneath the friends awning. I got reports of a REALLY bad thunderstorm coming our way. I went all Dad on them, and warned them to batten down the hatches and to take cover. I got the " Don't be bossy " look, but they took refuge in my Argosy. Lightning struck the tree next to her friends camper, and splintered the bark off of a large portion of the tree. Later we went to survey the damage. The camping mat that they were sitting on, had burn holes under a leg of both of their lawn chairs. We guessed that the lightning bolt might have come up through the ground, to one chair, jumped to the other chair, and back to the ground. The friends camper suffered damage to the electrical system.

The moral of the story….Even a broken clock is right…sometimes.

The scary thing was that a few dozen people took cover beneath a metal framed tarp shelter, to watch the storm.

It took place at a music festival. I didn't witness this but people reported that the sound man got zapped, as he was covering up the shelter covering the sound system. They said Saint Elmo's Fire ( a blue glow ) followed the speaker wire to the sound booth.

I'm thinking that the take away message might be, to not touch metal during a thunderstorm.
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