Electrical and RF Grounding

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Station Grounding

We are viewing this from the receiving station only.  This makes things a little easier to talk about. If we add transmitting into the equation, we have other items that we need to address and keep in the back of our minds.

In other words – we are dealing with a lot less of a headache when talking about grounding a scanner station from a ham station, but a lot of the same principles will apply.

What you need to know

  • What Happens in a poorly grounded tx station:
    • In a transmitting station, if you have a bad ground or no ground, you have to worry about where stray RF will go.  Things always like to take the path of least resistance to get to ground, and RF is no exception.
    • You might get a shock when talking on a microphone
    • You might hear RF coming through your computer speakers
    • Your fluorescent lights might react to having RF in the area
    • You may interfere with appliances that are in close proximity to your tx station
    • You could get a shock when touching metallic equipment
    • Your computer screen may act funny.  (I remember seeing this on the old VGA monitors when I was first getting started in ham radio)
    • You may even hear yourself coming back through other station equipment.

None of these would problems in a scanner radio shack

Why Ground then?

  • may help you improve your reception
  • Lower your noise floor
  • Will still keep you and your equipment safe from lightning

RF Ground

Starts with a ground rod located outdoors as close to your station shack as possible.  

You may also consider grounding to a metal cold water pipe if you can't get to a ground rod

You should bond your station’s ground to your electrical service ground.  

This will hopefully prevent lightning from going through your equipment to get to another ground point.  They are the same ground.


Inside the shack

You want a single point ground or (SPG).    A copper plate with all your ground connectors makes for a great SPG.    

You really don't’ want a ground pig-tail from each piece of equipment going to a ground wire.   Each ground pig tail can create a ground loop. (Something to think about in a tx environment)

Ground loops are formed when the individual ground wires of each equipment are connected to the main ground bus at a point that is distant from each other.

These ground loops could couple the RF energy if they are near a transmitter.  And this could cause chaos.

A copper ground block can act as your SPG.    Or – at worst case, maybe a 1’ of copper water pipe that you connect everything to.

This should then be bonded to your ground rod.

What do you ground with?

You can use heavy gauge copper wire

Copper wire is readily available and makes a great DC ground.  

This means you can find it almost at any electrical supply house or weekend warrior store.

However, it doesn’t mean it is a great RF ground conductor.

WHY ??

Skin effect.   RF Ground likes to travel over the ‘skin’ of a conductor.   So the wider the ground medium, the better. That is why we use copper braids or straps.  And why we use copper straps to ground towers and RF equipment.

So if you have the means to get some, go for some copper strap to join your single point ground to your grounding rod.

Strap is good for DC Conductor, RF Conductor, a Lighting Ground Conductor (use this to ground your lightning arrestors).  You can direct bury copper straps and you can also trust it will be there for many years to come.



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