Radio Station Grounding

recon radio.pngNotice the little stake in the corner of the radio set? That’s a grounding stake. It’s important.

A radio system works by creating an electrical path to transmit its energy. Taking into account simple electrical theory, the radio as a system needs a ground to most efficiently transmit its energy and to reduce static buildup in your set which will in time damage your equipment and can shock you. This is especially important if you’re using less than optimum antenna systems, leading to high Standing Wave Ratios, or SWR, which is energy returning to the set along your feed line, and is not radiated. In addition, having a good ground eliminates sources of noise that may otherwise be mistaken for harmful interference.

If you’re running QRP, this is a big deal as you need every little bit of juice possible getting out to efficiently communicate. For 100w or more, this is important because the static created is much more dangerous. When running a radio inside your home or outbuilding, improper grounding can create a fire hazard. 2016-04-23 10.00.12

The first thing you’ll need is a ground rod. A ground stake can be anything conductive giving static a path to Earth, but for a longer-term setup, you’ll want a copper grounding rod, preferably 8ft. Drive it into the ground near your transmitter; like a drunk who’s had too much, electricity likes to take the shortest path to the ground.

2016-04-23 10.58.10Next you’ll need a way to connect the radio to the rod. Flatstrap copper is optimum, but wire works fine as well. Couple one end to the rod and the other to the grounding screw on the back of your radio system. 2016-04-23 15.02.31This will normally be marked “GND” or labelled Ground.

The wire needs to be insulated from anything conductive to avert any possible shorts to the intended ground; this means you’ll need to shield it, as seen below, hidden under the desk. 2016-04-23 14.40.35

If your radio is indoors, you’re going to need to drill through something. Fear not; there’s a pretty simple way to get it through the wall or floor with minimal damage. As you can see above, drill the hole, run it through a small diameter PVC conduit, and attach it to an electrical box to keep everything clean on the outside. Running to your ground rod, your radio now has a solid and simple electrical ground path. Your radio be safer and more efficient.

All photo credit goes to Henry Bowman- Great work Brother.

19 thoughts on “Radio Station Grounding

    1. It’s pretty crazy. Growing up, every home had Lightening Rods on top of the house, with a cable running to a ground rod. If lightening hit, it wouldn’t destroy your house, but it would cause a crater by your foundation. Really, really cool to see, especially as a kid.

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  2. These are great posts about the little things that really count. In any craft they are the difference between being successful and learning the hard way. This Comms community is a wonderful group of folks, everywhere so many are gracious and generous, you all got your shit together. Lot of the world would do well to emulate the co-operation and cadre you guys have created.
    Thanks a lot really appreciate you guys for it.

  3. Thanks for this, I’ve always been a bit curious about whether ishould ground the radio or not. I’m not trying to be mr.negativity here, I just would like to add some tidbits before someone puts alot of work into running a ground for their home radio station. Article 810 of the national electrical code covers radio and television equipment including amateur radio stations. 810.21 covers the actual grounding of said stations. If you are installing grounds in your home or other structure they should be connected to the existing grounding system, especially if you are powering your station off the structures power system. Just my .02 to help someone avoid a problem later on down the road.

    1. There’s some serious debate about that. While NEC says that to create a common ground, there’s some reasons why you shouldn’t. For simplicity’s sake, Having a second ground for radio is easier if your home ground is on one side of your house and your shack is on the other. In addition, should you take a lightening hit, it won’t damage your home ground.

      1. I think when it comes to grounding there is always some debates going on. I myself don’t have any grounding done for my radio inside, but then I usually operate outside so I haven’t really thought about it much. As far as worrying about lightning damaging your home ground system, if you have a wire running into your home that gets energized from lightning you need to get it dissipated to ground as quickly as possible. Electricity can jump 1 inch for every thousand volts, so it isn’t going to take long for it to find a new ground if it burns off the wire going to your ground rod. There are many places in your house to get connected to its grounding system. The NEC allows you to connect to an interior metal water piping system within 5 feet from its point of entrance to the building , in your service panel inside , to the metallic raceway for your houses service , the service equipment enclosure, the premises bonding, or the actual grounding electrodes. Basically that is ground rods, metal structures in contact with the ground , underground metal piping except aluminum and gas lines. If you do install your own grounding electrode, you need to jumper it to the building grounding electrode with a number 6 copper. If anyone is really wanting help with this or has more questions feel free to ask and I’ll try to help. Electrical work it’s kind of like amateur radio; there’s the codebook way, the wrong way and the way that works.

      2. As for burning off wire, that’s why flat strap is more preferable.

        Lightning protection is not the only consideration, as grounding also allows for a better coupling to your antenna, and dissipating any static in a safe direction.

        RF ground is different from electric ground as well. A locally grounded bond needs to be created between each of your components, and that’s not always the same as the common electrical ground to a house, assuming this is where you’re operating or setting up.

      3. Well, after reading what you wrote, watching that guy on YouTube, and knowing what I know, I’m completely confused. I guess if I was going to do it for myself at my house, I would do it like you had shown except use a lightning arrestor similar to what the guy in the video used with his permanent antenna. Just don’t have it in for an inspector to see.

      4. Electrical stuff is good for that. I prefer to keep it simple, so that I can break it down rapidly when need be. As for inspectors, neither I, nor Henry when he did this, have too many concerns about that.

      5. So when you’re in the field do you still ground your radios? I’m Not worried about lightning protection as much as improved signal quality.

  4. Also, in the provided pictures the exposed should be ran inside a pvc conduit to protect them from damage per the NEC. The example will work just fine, but if the home was ever inspected it would be something they could ding him on. I can hear everyone’s groans already, do what you want, I just feel obligated to help of I can.

    1. Henry Bowman


      Can you clarify for me, as it is my system discussed, what “exposed,” should be in pvc pipe?

      I have the 8ga copper run thru a 1″ pvc pipe, screwed into the weatherproof box outside, thru pvc pipe in wall, into closet, under desk, and then connected to common bus?

      The copper runs exposed, down the exterior of my home, per every other ground cable on my house, and that i have ever seen too…

      I’m just curious and btw, if we do put home on market, all that shit goes away, and my shack, (closet actually converted with laminate counter top into desk) goes from being a desk and hamshack, to a closet….

      My wife is a Realtor, and would NEVER let me keep it as is for a listing…. πŸ˜‰

      What is not visible, is that i had to cut my rod into 2 4′ sections, drive separately a foot apart, due to soil and then bind them together as well….

      If major lightning is expected, i disconnect from ground and pull power….

      My antenna is in attic, so no issues there….

      From what i learned, the ground rod/cable should be as close to equipment as possible, and my main house ground was almost 50′ linear foot away on other side of home, so very impractical for me to do.

      I appreciate all the feedback, thanks guys…

      1. I’m sorry about my piss poor writing last night , what I meant to say was the exposed wiring on the outside of the house should be in a PVC pipe. This is just an electrical code requirement so that the wires do not get damaged and wouldn’t really effect the ground itself. I think the only person that would care would be an inspector. As far as what’s in the house I wouldn’t be too worried about that, especially if you’re going to remove this stuff if you ever want to sell your home. You are correct that you want to limit the amount of wire you run for your grounding since high voltage doesn’t really like bends and the longer your wire the more resistance there is to get to ground. Electricity always wants to take the path of least resistance, so you want to ensure that the wire to your ground rods is that path. As far as getting connected to the premises grounding system, if you’re running off of a battery it’s not really as important as if you are running off of a 120/12 power supply that is fed from the building. Your radio equipment is no different than any other electrical equipment in your house and has to be bonded with all the other equipment grounds. So what you basically need is a ground jumper from your radio equipment to the ground that is coming in with your 120 volt power feeding your power supply. You could use one of the system bonding jumper bars like you used under your desk to accomplish this. Run an individual number 10 ground wire from each piece of your radio equipment to the bar, and then another number 10 to the ground in the receptacle outlet that you are getting power from. That should be all you have to do if you are running off of power supply. It would also work if you are running off batteries. One thing to remember is the grounding is for your safety and so you don’t burn down your house. I don’t think there would be a difference in the function of your radio set if you were connected to your house grounds versus some ground rods, but it would be an interesting test to see.

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