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Practical, Economical, and Good Grounding
 For the Ham Radio Station

by N6JSX
An introduction to an 11 page PDF file download by N6JSX that covers practical, economical and good grounding for safety in the ham radio station.



"A good ground is one of the most essential parts of a solid HAM station." There are various reasons for this statement. First and foremost is for the safety of your family, home, and HAM equipment. Lightening NOT ONLY KILLS radios but can start house fires! A protruding antenna or tower into the atmosphere dramatically increases your odds of a lightening strike. Statistically however, most lightening damage comes from the AC power and telephone lines running into your home.

An understated fact of significance to HAM Radio is that a good ground WILL increase receiver sensitivity and transmit propagation. I've, personally, observed a decrease in surrounding ambient noise levels, from as much as S9 to S4 drop, on 75/40 meters when I shifted from a "cold water iron pipe 12 AWG wire ground" to a RF ground system stated in this paper. HF antenna(s) work BEST when they work against a "proper" counter-poise ground reference.

RF grounding is as mis-understood and as difficult to understand as "impedance." Both are very real, hard to measure, and cannot tangibly be seen in operation. The term that is used in RF grounding is "skin effect." In a ground system the vast majority of electrons run along the "outer most surface or skin of the conductor. A good RF ground has the least amount of resistance to electrons being conducted to ground via the most amount of conducting surface area (skin) that is practical. The goal of a good RF ground system is to obtain as "little" resistance as possible between the "antenna/tower-to-ground" and the "radio-to-ground". Thus the more conductive surface area the larger the path for electrons to earth ground. You could argue that multi-stranded cable/wires have more overall wire surface area but the touch areas of the wires negated skin effect conductance. Do not confuse current carrying capability with grounding skin affect they are two very different elements of electrical conductivity.

A typical laboratory/aerospace test system ground measures <12 ohms from "Unit-Under-Test to earth ground". A very very GOOD cold water iron pipe ground may measure as little as 35 ohms and that's if the water pipes are NOT PVC. [BEWARE --most new home construction use PVC pipes for water and sewage. Even in older homes the water service provider should have installed more than a 5' section of plastic pipe between the water mains and your home water line feeder -- this is to eliminate electrolysis/galvanic action within the piping system.]

Making a ground measurement is very difficult and most HAM's do not have a Megger(TM) generator type instrument to conduct a valid resistance measurement. This paper will attempt to "assist" in providing knowledge and examples of "reasonably good" RF ground systems that are within the economical range of most HAM's and that can achieve <20 ohms. How good a ground system you want installed is directly proportional to the amount of effort and funds you want to invest in the safety/operation of your station.

Disclaimer: Will installing these grounding methods written here prevent a loss of equipment from a lightening hit, NO! What it will do is help in minimizing damages. Are the methods in this paper the "best"? This is a loaded question that few understand but all HAMs seem to be experts on. When getting into these philosophical arguments I resign myself to just listen to what these self proclaimed experts profess and either improve my knowledge or shake my head in despair and walk away -- you cannot improve self-proclaimed experts knowledge. PolyPhaserTM  has a much more elaborate ground system plans but I cannot afford nor do I have the acreage to install a PolyPhaser ground system (designed for the infinite budget commercial world).

This paper gives examples of two scenarios for a "good & reasonable" HAM radio station ground system. See the complete PDF file article and download here! 73 N6JSX