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Before you key up your ham radio mic, make sure you are properly grounded.
One of the least understood aspects of ham radio is accurate grounding of radio stations.
Grounding does not need to be a complicated process. The two key steps in ham radio grounding installation are Safety and Performance.
Safety includes personal safety as well as your property safety. Obviously, keeping yourself and your equipment safe is a must when dealing in Ham Radio or Commercial Radio installation. Performance refers to how efficient a signal you have as well as clarity of messages sent and received.
Safety means proper grounding; and proper grounding comes in two forms: (2) RF Grounding and (1) Surge Protection. Although there is no protection against a direct lightning strike, a grounded system is always best.
Types of Radio Grounding
(1) RF Grounding RF stands for Radio Frequency. And RF grounding is a different type of grounding than that of surge grounding, which is covered below. Radio Frequency is an AC signal and it has impedance. An RF ground wire is nothing more then a short antenna. An effective RF ground needs to be less than a quarter wave-length at the highest frequency used. Ham Radio connections should be with either bare or insulated wire with as few strands as possible. This is very important, RF performs best on smooth surfaces, therefore, it is not recommended to use braided cable for RF connections. Most commonly, Storm Copper receives purchase requests for 0.032 thick soft copper sheeting - (both 2 and 4 wide). This copper sheeting material is ideal when installing grounding systems. Be sure to properly research what size material you need based on your equipment grounding needs.
(2) Surge Grounding Surge refers to an unexpected surge in electricity. This is often times caused by a lightning strike. It is important to not only protect yourself from a surge, but to consider protection of your electronic equipment. Since lightning strikes cannot be predicted, it is imperative that when purchasing or installing a radio, proper surge grounding is considered. In addition, it may also handle static build-up, which can sometimes zap the user or harm equipment. A surge, or safety ground, should have enough surface area contacting the earth to dissipate the surges safely. Using numerous ground rod connections with solid smooth wire or copper sheeting will provide the best grounding. Ground wire can vary in size from (#4 up to 4/0). Run bare copper between the separate ground rods to form a ground system. Bare copper wire provides added surface contact area for the ground system. It should be laid underground connecting rods. Tip: draw a map of the runs for future projects to avoid hitting and digging up the system in the future.
For more information about grounding products at Storm, e-mail us your questions.