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jhorwitz (4227)

jhorwitz
  reversethis-{gro.gnihsams} {ta} {ffej}
http://www.smashing.org/

System administrator, Perl hacker, author of "Unix System Management Primer Plus" (SAMS 2003), mod_parrot, extproc_perl, Authen::Krb4, Authen::Krb5.

Journal of jhorwitz (4227)

Monday November 03, 2003
05:54 PM

zzzzzzzzap!

[ #15541 ]
After a long day at work starting at 5 AM, I came home to find my answering machine off, my stove clock flashing, and my entire family room and office without power. Every other room was fine. Odd, I thought. So I went downstairs to check on the breakers, and sure enough, four of them had tripped. But why just four? And why those four? I turned on the breakers and heard a zapping sound which was the fluorescent light in the basement blowing out. Wow, something BAD happened here.

I unscrewed the fluorescent bulbs, turned the last breaker back on, and went upstairs to turn everthing else back on. To my surprise, nothing in my audio cabinet would turn on. The surge suppressor was fried! DOH! I went back upstairs to turn my computers back on. The two on my UPS went on just fine. But my test Sun box wouldn't come on. Its surge suppressor was fried too! And the outlet was charred as well. Bonus! Lucky there wasn't a fire.

I called PECO to see if there were any surges in the area, and they said they didn't see anything. Phooey -- now I didn't know what was wrong. All signs pointed to the Sun, but it didn't feel right. I headed to Best Buy to buy two new surge suppressors and came back $50 poorer. There was a message on my answering machine. It was PECO, saying that their outages were just updated and turns out there was a line down that caused a major outage in my area. AHA! Someone to blame. :) With some peace of mind that my computer didn't cause the problem, I hooked everything back up and I'm back online.

Now for the geek in me -- why were only half my breakers tripped, and why was my stove flashing, but the breaker for it was fine? What I *believe* happened is that only one of the phases coming into my house surged and died (or one surged and the other went dead), causing half the breakers to flip. The stove is electric, so it takes 2-phase 240V power -- it lost one of its phases, which was enough to lose the clock, but its massive 40A breaker never tripped, so it had power when I got home. I think that's a pretty reasonable explanation, especially since I know which circuits are on which phase based on my X10 module placement. If anyone has a different theory, I'm all ears!

So I guess the lesson here is -- ALWAYS USE PROTECTION! 2 surge suppressors gave their lives for my machines today. ;-)

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