THE JIST

It's simple. You must have a good grounding system for your HAM shack. This is the RF ground. Your house needs a ground system too. That's the service ground. If you have a tower, it also needs a grounding system. All three of these grounding systems must be tied together. Read on to learn more on this topic.
Picture

Overview

Updated 201601251107.

Hey... I know what it's like waiting until your license shows up on FCC's ULS. You passed your test, you're all set to go, and you're just waiting. You may have even already bought your radio. If you're going to be using anything beyond a hand-held transceiver you should read the information below.

So, what’s going on here. Simply, everything must be properly grounded to protect you, others, your equipment, and your home. The information shown here is not the end-all-be-all of station grounding. There are many other resources you can find on the Internet. The information here can get you started though. I recommend you check the National Electric Code (NEC) if in the US or CEC if in Canada. Also, check with your local codes office too. You'll likely need a building permit anyway.

Your rig, tower, and home electrical system must each have separate ground rods. None of these grounds can be used for any other ground BUT once all the grounds rods are installed they must be connected together. Also, never use the residential electrical ground for your equipment’s RF (station) ground – NEVER!. There is no "what ifs, or "and buts" here. Just don't do it.

When connecting your station and tower ground rods to the service ground use the largest copper wire you can afford but don’t use anything smaller than #6. If you can afford 4 or 2 go for it. You should also use lightning protection where the antenna connects to the feed line, at the base of the tower antenna cable and any rotator wiring, and then again where it enters your home. Something like a PolyPhaser or similar works.

None of the interconnecting ground wires should have sharp bends. Each should have a sweeping curve. This helps reduce impedance in the wire during a lightning strike.

Please take a look at the "Notional Station Grounding System" diagram below. The numbered paragraphs following this introduction correspond to the diagram's numbers.

A Grounding System

1. Do not directly attach the copper wire to the tower leg. Sandwich stainless steel foil between it and the tower leg to retard galvanic action between the copper wire and steel tower leg. Buff up the mating surfaces with scotchbrite too. Use NoAlox Anti-Oxidant Compound between all the mating surfaces. (Those few ideas are from N1LO.) Use two or three stainless steel hose clamps per connection. To keep weather out of the connection wrap it with UV resistant electrical tape. When wrapping the leg with tape start at the top and go down and continue with a second layer from bottom to top stopping above the lower layer. Do not cut the tape off on the last turn or pull it to tear it off. Instead apply five turns around the leg without stretching the tape then cut it off. This will ensure it doesn't pull back over time.

2. Weather resistant metal enclosure. It contains the static discharge equipment for your antenna cables and rotator wiring. The components inside also connect to the grounding system. Use heavy gauge wire for this connection too.

3. Heavy braided copper strapping. Connects the transceiver to station grounding system. It is important that this be a short as possible. Avoid sharp corners in the run to the station ground.

4. Lightning Surge/EMI Protector in enclosure. The back panel of the enclosure is connected to station ground - see 5 below.

5. Heavy braided copper strapping. Connects the protector to station ground.

6. Transceiver

7. Power Supply.

8. 120VAC Wiring, with ground to the residence's electrical service panel.

Image

9. AC service panel.

10. The service panel ground rods should be no closer than 8 feet to each other. Check your codes compliance office for exactly what they require.

11. All ground rods must be driven into the ground 8 feet. This means that the top of each 8 foot ground rod will be just under the surface of the ground.

12. Tower ground rods should be about 16 feet apart if possible (Hint from N1LO).

13. Each leg of the tower is connected to its own ground rod. If you can afford it (not depicted) attached two ground rods to each leg. Each rod should be 16 feet from any other rod if possible and extend radially from the base of the tower (Hint from N1LO).

14. RG-213 or similar.

15. #6 or larger solid copper wire.

16. EMI/Surge Protector.

17. Static Dissipaters. One per tower leg. If possible, mount one above the antenna and ensure it is connected to the tower, not the antenna.

What to do about static cling... I mean, Dissipating Static Build Up.

One thing that attracts lightning is static build up. If static can be dissipated then a possible strike can be averted. You can use a large wire brush like those used for chimney sweeps. Only use these if you can find one that is made completely out of stainless steel. If you're not into fabrication then buy them from people that make them. Check out LBA Lightning Dissipater Arrays for ideas and products. Tessco sells a nice product - though it's a bit pricey... $169.00. To attach the dissapator to the tower buff up the mating surfaces with scotchbrite. Use NoAlox Anti-Oxidant Compound between all the mating surfaces too. Affix each static dissipater to one leg of the tower above the antenna if possible, otherwise put them below it. They should stick up and out. Use stainless steel hose clamps to hold them in place.

Grounding gets some people all in a bother. There is much discussion and sometimes disagreement about how to properly ground things. Well, it should. There are many things to consider and even more to do - if you do it right; and it can be expensive as well. Short-cuts aren't acceptable though when you consider destruction of equipment or death via electrocution as an alternative. Take your time... do it right... be safe.

N1LO has a great guide for towers, grounding, and static dissapation; e.g., N1LO's Guyed Tower Topic Summary. You can read the document by clicking this. Or if you want to get it directly from the source, please visit Mark's (N1LO) web site by clicking here. The link to his guyed tower information can be found here here. (The links here [and info-snippets] were provided with permission.)


^