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New ham: establishing grounding bus bar

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by W3TKB, Sep 27, 2020.

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  1. W3TKB

    W3TKB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm in the process of setting up my first "shack". Within the last couple weeks have purchased a base radio, power source, antenna system, antenna tuner. I understand the concept of grounding the components to a common ground bus bar (busbar?). I have a "man cave" room down in our basement that I am establishing my shack in, but it is on the opposite side of the house as our service utilities access.

    I have read that some people have grounded their bus bars by running a wire to their water main inlet pipe and clamping the wire to it. I'm not thrilled about doing that, as I would have to run the wire across the basement along the undersides of the floor joists above, alongside all the other electrical wiring. Others have mentioned attaching the bus bar to a grounding stake driven into the ground. Not sure how I would do that...would I drill a hole through the concrete floor and pound a grounding rod in downstairs? Or take the ground wire outside somehow (there are no windows in the basement)?

    Looking for options or recommendations on grounding the bus bar. Something else in the house I can safely attach a ground to? Thanks in advance.

    Brando W3TKB
  2. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Prepare for the deluge.
    AK5B, K1LKP, W4IOA and 4 others like this.
  3. KC9YGN

    KC9YGN Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    ARRL "Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur", $22.95
    W1PEP and N0TZU like this.
  4. W4HWD

    W4HWD Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you ask 50 hams on here about this you'll get close to 50 different answers.

    Consult a local electrician who can come to your house, actually look at your setup and implement recommendations.

    I will say this:

    I don't have a station ground and have never had one in 31 years.

    Improperly adding a second ground rod at your house provides a path for damaging lightning current and other transients to flow from your service entrance, through your equipment and out the other rod - or the other way, from your antenna, through your equipment and out the service electrode.

    Be careful. Hams are sometimes known to half-a** things with disastrous results.
    AK5B, K5EMG, W6KCS and 2 others like this.
  5. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    FIRST —

    The national electric code rule is that all ground points must be bonded together with at least 6 gauge wire, so whatever you do, it all must be bonded with the AC service entrance ground. This is to prevent lightning current (and some types of fault currents) from going through your equipment, and possibly you!

    The ARRL grounding book is excellent, and explains that in detail and much more. You'll learn a lot and you won’t go wrong following its advice. Less than $25 online.

    In my opinion much of the what is recommended for grounding inside the shack is overkill for a typical modern station - a grounding bar and having every piece of equipment grounded to it, plus a grounded plate underneath, and grounded shelves, etc. By modern I mean equipment that has three wire grounded power supplies (AC directly or separate AC to DC), AND modern coaxial feedlines brought into the shack with proper grounding and surge protection at the point of entry (and a shack with three wire grounded outlets of course).

    In some instances it could cause problems like feedback through the grounding and static electricity damage to electronic projects and components. But if you have noise or other specific problem that can’t be solved another way, then the ground bus may be appropriate, or if you have a rack of equipment bolted to a concrete slab which is an uncontrolled ground point. Most amateurs don’t.
    K5EMG likes this.
  6. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is a short ( wink ) reading list:
    •ANSI J-STD 607B
    •ANSI/NECA/BICSI 607:2011
    •ANSI/TIA 607B: 2011•
    *BICSI TDMM 13thEdition:2014
    •BS 7430:2011
    •IEEE 1100:2005
    •IEEE 81:2012
    •ISO/IEC 30129:10.2015•
    NFPA 70:2020 (NEC) <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Your insurance company needs you or an electrician to consider understanding this book- see below for why.
    •Motorola R56:2005
    •MIL-HNBK-419A <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< You may want to study "Ground Loops" first so that you know what the are and why they are a problem.
    •ARRL Grounding and Bonding for Amateur Radio
    Getting back to your question, you should seriously consider getting a licensed electrician to look at the work. If it is completed by November 1st, in some areas, that will save a lot of money. Most states are now about to adopt the 2020 version of the National Electrical Code ( National Fire Prevention, that's NFPA ) NFPA 70: N.E.C. 2020 or just the 2020 NEC, depending on who you talk to.
    There is one place where the neutral wire from your electrical meter meets the 'grounding electrode', usually a ground rod. Water pipes in some homes are plastic, and should never be used to establish an electrical ground - even if copper or other metal - in any new project.
    Before much more is said, are the outlets in your home equipped with 3-prong sockets or is there room for two blades? Any idea of how old the house is? Your answer to those two questions may determine what course of action is best for you. It would also be wise to specify HF or VHF or UHF ( or all 3 ), and budget. Yet realize that the tuner implies HF and the budget should be looked at more in terms of your home safety than just what has been spent on the radio gear. Without knowing how far from the service entry ( meter ) to the 'man cave', it would be hard to estimate the project.
    As you wait for it, you may also want to see what is available through Polyphaser(TM/R/Etc.) and Harger (TM/R/Etc.) for parts. The others may tell you about radials, too- if you are interested.
  7. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Nothing like hams to over-complicate a simple task! :)
    K0OKS, WE4E, KC1NNR and 3 others like this.
  8. W4IOA

    W4IOA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm assuming you're setting up a 2m or dual band fm station. You're overthinking it. I'd work on how you're going to bring the coax in and where you are going to place your antenna.
    Your radio will ground through your power supply to the household ground.
    Congratulations on getting your ticket and getting on the air!
    N4FZ and W6KCS like this.
  9. N3HGB

    N3HGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    You are going to end up running a ground wire around to the service entrance ground one way or the other. Either that will be your ground or you will have a ground rod over at your end of the basement and you still need to tie to the other ground rod. Use 6 gauge wire either way.
    What antennas do you have and how to you plan to run the coax? There are specific grounding requirements for antenna cables entering the house.
    N0TZU likes this.
  10. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    What I've learned from reading the multitude of "experts" arguing in this forum is that the most important thing to know about grounding, is that no matter how you do it, you'll be doing it wrong ! :rolleyes:

    But speaking for myself, not as an "expert" ...

    In my opinion the traditional "bus bar behind the desk" is unnecessary except in a few cases. I would not do that, unless a specific problem needs to be solved. 50 years or so ago when home electrical systems were 2-wire without a dedicated green/bare wire ground, it made sense. Today not so much.

    What IS necessary is that you ground your feedlines outside the house. Typically, that involves a ground rod outside the house whereever your feedlines are going in, and that ground rod bonded (the famous #6 wire all the way around the house) to the electrical service ground.

    Don't know why, but it seems like most hams manage to locate their shacks at the opposite end of their houses away from their electrical service ground! It's almost a tradition! Not ideal but it's OK. Just means a long bonding wire.

    The alternative is to bring your coax in at the location of the electrical service ground, and then to your shack. That usually means extra length of coax (versus long copper bonding wire).

    Ideally, everything that enters your house should come in at the same place and all connected to the same ground electrode. But "ideal" is seldom practical so we do the best we can (... or the minimum we feel we can get away with).
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
    W6KCS, W4IOA, KK4NSF and 1 other person like this.

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