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August 3, 2010

Question of the Month: Lightning Damage to Plasma?

Q. Lightning either hit our house or very close to it last week, and the plasma TV I was watching lost its picture, as did a computer screen my wife was using. When she re-booted the computer, it worked, but the TV isn’t working. I am trying to get a feel for the most likely culprit. Normally, I would just figure the TV itself is damaged. However, the menus for the TV show on the screen. I just don’t get a picture. Is the fact that I can still see the menus from the TV an indication that the TV itself may not be the issue? I would have thought that if the screen was damaged such that I can’t see a picture, I’d also not see the menus.

Is it possible the receiver was damaged and it’s the problem? I get sound through the receiver, so it is not completely dead, but as noted, no picture on the TV. Finally, is it possible that a power surge of some sort could actually damage an HDMI cable, causing the issue? – R.L.

A. It is possible the power surge from a nearby lightning strike could have damaged an HDMI connection on the TV or on the AV receiver, but the fact that you can see the TV menu and any colors that are used with the menu options gives cause for hope. However, you are going to need to bypass your AV receiver and try one of the TV’s video inputs, ideally using your DVD player as an input signal. Don’t use the cable box as a video source because it may have been damaged as well.

Try unplugging the TV, leave it for awhile, then re-boot it, then try the DVD player using an alternative set of video inputs—the analog component video inputs, if the TV has a set (component video uses three analog RCA cables, and the inputs are color-coded red, blue and green). If you get a picture from the DVD player, try going through the AV receiver (you may have to re-boot it as well) then to the TV to confirm the health of the receiver. Then you can try the HDMI connections from the DVD player to receiver to TV. Next, re-boot the cable box and try connecting it.

Finally, as a general warning, if you live in a house and there’s a nearby electrical storm, it’s a good idea to unplug sensitive electronic appliances. It’s the only sure preventative from dangerous lightning strikes and resulting power surges that can damage sensitive electronics.

Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada’s largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, “Sound Advice”, began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time. Find out more about Alan in his bio.

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  • Greg Lee
    August 31, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    The video signal for the TV menus comes from the TV. The video for programs comes from wherever the TV get its signal — could be over-the-air antenna, cable, or satellite. You’re not giving us enough information to tell which. A lightning strike could damage the TV tuner, or the cable connection, or (if you have satellite) the dish LNB or cables, or … I had symptoms similar to those you describe when a power surge killed the LNB amplifier attached to my satellite dish.


    • September 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm

      To cite every possibility would have made my reply far too lengthy. The questioner wanted to “get a feel” for what might have gone wrong, and I believe my advice helped him eliminate other components. As it turned out, he was able to determine that the power surge damaged the HDMI input section of his plasma TV (he was able to get a TV picture by using the component video inputs). My general warning to “unplug sensitive components during a thunder storm” covers any associated video components, including satellite dish receivers and associated gear.

  • Todd
    January 9, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    We just had the same scenario at our house last night. The TV works for “over the air antenna” and using component connections from the DirecTV box. All 4 HDMI connections are not working. The Plasma is a Panasonic 65″ model TC-P65GT30. I can buy a used main/video board that includes all the inputs and outputs for the TV. Any idea what effort or cost to install this board? Would replacing this board take care of my issues?

  • January 13, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Hi Todd;
    Sorry to hear about the hit! We polled around at the factory and nobody can say for certain what the cost of replacing the board would be or whether it would take care of the issues; you’ll need to consult someone familiar with the model. I hope you’re able to find a resolution.

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