I’m Grateful for My Brand-Spanking New LiftMaster

I’m grateful for my brand-spanking new LiftMaster. But if you think I’m trying out a new butt-tightening machine or taking up power-lifting, let me ease your mind. The LiftMaster is our new garage door opener. Isn’t she a beauty?

Garage photo 1

Lightning struck our garage last week. It also nailed a tree just beyond our front yard. We thought it struck our home because the bolt was so intense, we felt our house shake and our fire alarms went off. The alarms silenced after a few seconds while Mr. Groovy and I ran upstairs and found Groovy Cat. He was tucked under a bed, hiding. We inspected both levels and Mr. Groovy checked the attic. We found nothing. No smoke. No damage.

Our next door neighbor phoned within minutes. She thought her home was struck too, and she was panicking because she saw a large spark behind her TV set. But she, too, found no evidence that her house was struck. We met outside our back doors and immediately smelled smoke. She phoned her boyfriend, a fireman, for advice. He said do not touch doors, windows, water, or anything electrical, and he called for a fire truck and crew to pay us a visit.

As we waited, we walked over to my front yard where a few neighbors congregated, inspecting a tree. The tree is just a few feet from our property and lightening struck it big-time. It still stood tall but it had long, vertical sear marks in a few places. Two of our neighbors came to check on us because they witnessed the lightning strike the tree from across the street.

Garage Photo 2

The fire department arrived pretty quickly. Two firemen jumped off the truck and spoke to my neighbor and me for maybe half a minute. One of them claimed all was good and said, “Gotta run and put out some real fires”. Then they went on their merry way. Hellllooooo! What about us? They fled so quickly we were dumbfounded. When my neighbor’s boyfriend heard we got the bum’s rush he was furious. However, within fifteen minutes the burnt smell began to dissipate. Mr. Groovy and I decided to check the attic once more before going to bed and advised our neighbor to do the same.

The next morning I first realized our garage door opener was fried. I tried to open the door using the button on the wall mount inside the garage, but the door wouldn’t budge. I saw a red glow behind the mount—the switch was receiving power. The unit just didn’t work.

Then it all came together—our detached garage is just a few feet from our back door. Our neighbor’s home has the same layout, and her TV, where she saw the spark, is on her back wall. The lightening came from behind our houses, traveled quickly to the front yard, hit a tree— and missed our homes entirely. How lucky was that?

Ironically, “call the garage door company” was on my to-do list for months. Our old garage door opener was acting up. The remote we use to open the door from the car wasn’t doing the trick. We changed the battery but that didn’t help. I suspected the sensors were shot and it would cost around $200 to replace them. Mr. Groovy was less optimistic and figured we needed an entirely new unit for around $400. But we never got around to making the calls.

However, lightning forced our hand—time for a service call. OK I know some of you might consider a garage door opener a want, not a need. After all, the garage has a back door through which we can enter and manually lift the front door. Yes, that works just fine. And that’s OK for leaving the house—but the return trip is downright annoying. First Mr. Groovy parks in our driveway. We both get out of the car, traipse through mud to the back door of the garage and enter. Then Mr. Groovy hoists up the front door, and I hold it in place while he returns to the car and drives in. And finally, he rolls down the door and locks it with a latch. Phew! I’m so grateful we don’t go through that production anymore. But I’m even more grateful that our house wasn’t destroyed.

During every storm the news broadcasts stories of homes in our area catching on fire and electrical lines falling down. Last year during a storm, a neighbor on her laptop was shocked and thrown across the room. Televisions are often completely obliterated—which is why many folks purchase extended warranties. We put surge protectors on our TVs, major appliances and laptops, and we have a professionally installed surge protector on our HVAC system. But we don’t have one of those “whole-home” surge protectors. It may be worth investigating.

In the end, the LiftMaster cost $350—that includes the unit, a new wall mount, a remote, and labor. The expense was totally worth it. Now we come and go without angst. I just need to update our vacation checklist with “Unplug garage door opener”. I’ll add it to: turn off water, unplug washer and dryer, TVs and laptops.

We can’t control the elements but we can take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and our property. It only takes a few minutes of preparation to gain a little peace of mind. Which reminds me—we’re due for a dryer vent cleaning. We’ve let that one drop to the bottom of the to-do list too.

What weather and fire precautions do you take at home?

Has lightning ever damaged your property?

I would love for you to share any tips.

 

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28 Comments

  1. Glad everything was OK! We had a similar strike near our condo in Florida last fall. It blew pieces of the tree more than 100 feet away! We are using our phones and lightning trackers on weather apps to get a sense of how intense storms are now. We unplug laptops and TV’s when we are home and know we are in a path of a big storm. Our bigger concern is at our rental properties. We have up to date smoke detectors everywhere – a few bucks is worth a lot of piece of mind!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Vicki. It was scary! The rental properties would worry me too but the detectors help. And I’m sure you have good insurance.

      I need to do some research on those lightning trackers and weather apps.

  2. Glad that all you lost was a garage door opener.

    Lightning hit my mom’s house about a decade ago and caused a fire. Fortunately a neighbor caught it within 5 minutes or the 40’s wooden house would have been a goner. As it was, it took a year to get it inhabitable again, and there were plenty of sentimental objects that couldn’t be salvaged from the smoke and water damage. Fortunately, Mom’s husband had a house near Boone and they were both retired.

    (A few years later my Dad’s house got hit by a tornado. He lives on 40 acres of woods, and it took almost a year to clean up too. I’m hoping between the two of them they managed to check off all of the family’s “got hit by natural disasters” boxes for a while.)

    We have all of our electronic devices on surge protectors, and Jon will unplug the entertainment center and fridge if lightning is close.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      I know right? It was just a garage door opener. It’s so strange that our hand has been forced on technical problems. We had been meaning to change internet providers but kept putting that off because it’s such a hassle. Long story short, an electrician came to reinstall a phone line when we had our wood floors put in upstairs. He messed things up so badly we ended up with no internet connection. That’s when we dumped our old provider.

      I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s house and your dad’s. It’s amazing how long it takes to make a home inhabitable again. You know how bloggers have written about how “your money doesn’t care”? Well, weather doesn’t care either, unfortunately.

      Thanks for commenting, Emily.

  3. Whoa! Glad nothing more serious happened! Escaping that close of a lightening strike with only really needing a new garage door opener is okay in my book!

    I agree – I would replace our garage door opener in a heartbeat if it ever went out. Yes, it is a want more than a need but sometimes it is okay to pay for conveniences!

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Thias. We felt so fortunate we were almost glad to spend the money. And we also discussed how fortunate we are to have an emergency fund.

      The opener is definitely a want. But it feels less frivolous than some other wants, especially during these heat spells we’ve been having. We don’t want to spend any extra minutes in stuffy garage.

  4. Glad to hear you both emerged relatively unscathed. A new garage door opener is certainly better than fire or extensive electrical damage.

    I’ve never personally suffered any property damage due to lightning, thankfully, and hope I never do. When I was a fireman, it seemed I was the “lucky” one who always had storms during my shift. We would get nonstop calls for fires due to lightning strikes or downed power lines.

    My most memorable shift was when Hurricane Opal blew threw in 1995. As long as I live, I’ll never forget that night. We responded to several houses that caught fire due to lightning.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Yes, the other possible outcomes could have been much worse, Lazy FI Guy. I don’t recall the news covering Hurricane Opal that much up north but that must have been some night. I hope all the people involved were OK.

      Thanks, for your comment!

  5. Wow, that is scary. Lightning that close could have ended up so much worse. I’m glad you are all okay. I have to admit is garage opener would be on the list of needs (not wants) for me as well. Also good that you have all the alarm systems in place. Better safe than sorry.

    About 5 years ago, we purchased a new opener (the old one was dead). We got one with the iphone app (okay yes a want, not a need). Its works out great for us. Our garage is only semi connected and we can’t see from the inside if it is open or closed. Our App now warns us if its been open too long.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Maarten! We could have bought a unit that works with an app for $100 more. But it would be wasted on us, non-techies. We can’t see if our garage is open either but I go out to our dumpsters (stored by the garage) often enough to take notice. And many days we never even open the door since we work from home.

      I agree the opener is a need for us, not a want. Off and on we had to go the manual route for several months and we never got used to it.

  6. Like you guys, we get massive electrical storms here in Australia. Something to do with the big land mass and low humidity or something.

    My near-miss experience happened when I was standing on the back porch watching the storm build. I bolt of lightning hit a tree about 10m from where I was standing. The top of the tree exploded in a shower of sparks and I saw the lightning track down the tree and explode again when it hit the ground. All in the space of less than 1 second.

    I crapped myself. The bang was so intense it went right through me. An incredible experience but not one I want to repeat.

    Incidentally, unfortunately your tree will probably die now as the amount of electricity it has absorbed in the strike usually kills them. I can certainly understand why.

    Huge experience guys. Am pleased it didn’t cause too much damage.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks for the good wishes, Martin. You’re too funny! You crapped yourself…I spoke with a county arborist about the tree. He said with vertical damage most likely the tree will live. I called him while I was waiting to find out if replacing the tree is our responsibility or the homeowners’ association. I was relieved to learn it’s the association’s responsibility. Its location is beyond our sidewalk and is considered common area.

      What were you doing waiting for the storm to build? I hope you learned not to do that anymore! That reminds me of living on Long Island near the beach where some numb-skulls went out to swim in the surf before storms. At least one person drowned every year.

  7. I’m so glad you both are ok! I wish more people took weather seriously. I lived in tornado-land for a long time and I just am super prepared for everything. My girlfriend’s momma appreciates it, because she now knows that her daughter has a few days’ supply of fresh water and plenty of nonperishable food at her place. I also inspect her flashlights and smoke detectors for proper battery power. No candles, but, the place is small (and not clean enough for that to be safe).

    The worst thing I saw as a middle schooler was watching the oak tree in front of our house bend to touch the ground once before it snapped and fell. The wind was bad, but the tree had a rotten core. I was so scared that the other trees would fall.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, ZJ! I know, mother nature is no joke! Tornado-land would freak me out. I’m so glad you never got hurt and learned to prepare.

      You just reminded me that our flashlights don’t work. You think we would have replaced them after our electricity went out for a few hours recently? And we were left in the dark for several hours? But nooooo. I’m adding that to my weekend list right now.

  8. Glad you are all okay! Can’t even imagine how scary that was…and his frustrating to be dismissed like that! We lost our whole shed, part of our roof, and a few pieces of siding during a microburst in the spring 😁 The metal frame on the shed looked like someone tied a shoe lace.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks Penny! It was very scary. Mr. G suggested I add a line to the post about the blast being louder than his snoring, but I couldn’t joke about this.

      I remember you writing about your shed but I didn’t know what caused it. What the heck is a microburst? And I so did not appreciate being dismissed. I hope the neighbor’s boyfriend had some choice words for those firemen.

  9. Yikes, that’s a definitely a scare to say the least and glad the garage door is the only damage. Also while some people may say the opener is a want, I look at something like that as a money saver. Mrs. Groovy that process you described of having to go around to the back door and manually open the garage takes a lot more time than hitting a button and parking. All that time saved over the life of that garage door opener is definitely worth it for $350. Time is money right?

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Dollar Engineer. Good point about saving money. I didn’t even think of that. Even if it’s only 5 minutes for every time we leave the house, that adds up over time. I totally agree time is money. In fact I’m pretty sure that is explained extremely well in that book “Your Money or Your Life” which a lot of people recommend. Personally, I’ve only skimmed it. I couldn’t get through it for some reason.

  10. Wow! So glad you guys are okay. Lightning hit my apartment building once and fried the phones. Everything else was plugged in a surge protector and was okay. I wasn’t home at the time and it was quite a mystery until I talked with the neighbors who were home.

    Scary stuff.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, Julie. Phones seemed to get fried pretty quickly. Glad you solved the mystery (and that you had no other problems). FYI, I’ve known that one can get shocked while on the phone during a storm, but I always thought that referred to only corded phones. I did a little poking around the internet and found some recommendations to even stay off of cordless and cell phones.

  11. Wow, I have definitely not done enough to protect our house! I don’t know that we have any surge protectors!

    I did have our dryer vent cleaned after we bought the house, and make sure the smoke detector worked. I’ve been meaning to purchase a second smoke detector, and haven’t done that yet either. Thanks for the reminder! Safety is nothing to be trifled with.

    I’m glad everyone was alright, and that the damage wasn’t more serious.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks for the good wishes, Pia. We’ve been too lax on the dryer vent. I’ve seen recommendations on getting it cleaned once a year. I believe it’s a large source of house fires. Personally I don’t leave any appliance (except the A/C and refrigerator) on while not home – not even a Crockpot.

      What about fire extinguishers? Those are a must – do you have any? We have one downstairs in the kitchen and one upstairs next to the washer and dryer.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Oh yes, we’re still groovin’ along. Thanks Ray Ray. The sound alone was very frightening but then the realization that you might have been stuck is eerie on top of that.

  12. Crazy stuff, my friend! Glad to hear that the damage was minimal. Our approach to protecting our home – and finances – is pretty straight forward. We keep our home – and yard – clean and tidy, we try to conduct regular maintenance on all of our appliances (e.g. keep the dryer vent clean as you noted), and maintain our emergency fund to quickly deal with unforeseen occurrences.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Thanks, James. We were very lucky. Regular maintenance is so important. It’s amazingly straightforward but it’s also easy to fall into a pattern of neglect (or laziness) with protecting home and finances.

  13. I love watching lightening, but have never had such a scary close encounter with it.

    Thanks for the reminder to get our chimney cleaned out before it gets cold again, and we use firewood to save money on heating costs.

    • Mrs. Groovy

      Oh yes, definitely get the chimney cleaned before you use it. That’s another area people neglect or just plain forget about.

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