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Old 07-24-2015, 10:18 AM
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Damonte Damonte is offline
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Default Radio Station Grounding



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There have a number of separate discussions and questions about proper RF grounding. I thought I would share some information about what a good RF grounding setup in your radio room (or ham shack) would look like. This is primarily a focus on RF grounding, not on electrical grounding.

Summary (TLDR)

All station equipment needs to be RF grounded to an external ground rod, bonded to each other, and bonded to the house ground.

Preamble

Without good RF grounding, you're going to get hum, noise, hash and other unwanted problems in your equipment and in your radio signals. Grounding can be both a problem internally within your equipment and externally. You probably can't address the internal issues with your gear. If you know a piece of equipment has an internal grounding issue, it's really best to replace it if you cannot fix it yourself. This will address the external grounding problem.

Grounding your equipment

RF ground is *not* the same as electrical ground. Do not confuse this with the negative (black) wire on DC electrical wiring. Don't just jam wires into the third (round) prong of the nearest AC outlet. This will take some planning, a little work and a little sweat. It's worth it.

Each piece of radio equipment should have a chassis ground connection. It may be a specific connection labeled "Ground" on the back of your gear. It may be as simple as loosening a screw to slip a ring terminal or wire under it. What is important is that every piece of equipment that is attached to your radio, or attached to something attached to your radio should share a common RF ground.

See Figure 1. This is the back of an Astron RS-35MA linear power supply. See the dedicated chassis ground connection. This is what you should connect to your common RF ground.

See Figure 2. This is the back of an Astron SS-25 switching power supply. There doesn't seem to be a dedicated chassis ground connection. What you can do here is simply loosen or remove this screw and loop a wire or a ring terminal under it. You might even want to sand down some of the coating to get a good metal on metal connection.

See Figure 3. this is the back of a Yaesu FT-950 transceiver. You can see the dedicated chassis ground connection

Bonding and Ground Buss

All your equipment should be bonded together. The simplest way to do this is by using a common ground buss. See Figure 4. In the simplest form, just ground this bar, and then ground each piece of equipment to this buss. It makes adding and removing pieces of equipment from your radio system very easy.

External and House Ground

You should always ground your radio equipment to a dedicated external ground. I have a pass-through panel on the window in my radio room that allows me to pass my antenna connections and grounding connection outside. It's really nothing more than a piece of 1/4" thick plywood with holes drilled to fit UHF and N-Type female-female bulkhead adapters. I also have a silicon-bronze bolt to pass my grounding connection to the ground rod that's a foot away from my window. This makes connecting/disconnecting antennas and also my ground system very easy and low maintenance.

Inside the house, I have a 4ga bare copper wire running up into space above the ceiling and cross to the house ground on my electrical panel. This is crucial to maintaining a consistent, common ground and getting rid of RF noise in your system.

Portable Operation

If you like to run portable, do not ignore this! At the very least, I would carry a two foot steel rod that you can tap into the ground and clamp your grounding connection to that. A steel tent stake would work well.

Finale

These steps will go a long, long way to removing RF interference and other issues with your radio gear. You'll read lots of comments about individuals saying you need ferrite beads on all the cables connecting this gear to this other gear. Guess what? That's because their gear isn't properly grounded! They have RF from one item flowing on the outer skin of the cables to the next piece of equipment. Ferrite beads mask the true issue. Proper grounding resolves it.
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