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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It pays to check your ground!

The last few months I've seen some strange things amiss at my house that are out of the ordinary. I lost some electronics to lightning in April. My computer, a couple of wifi routers, cable modems from my ISP, and possibly a couple of appliances in the kitchen all became victims of lightning. Not a direct hit, but, as I have had occur before, static from a nearby strike ran in and toasted the stuff.

I suspected I had an issue with my ground system, but wasn't sure the best way to deal with it. I talked with one ham on the radio about it and he said it was imperative that I check my grounding system. But things seemed fine with my electronics and as a precaution I began unplugging most of the sensitive electronics such as my TV, ham equipment, and cable equipment.

After my TV went out last month (due to what was eventually an unrelated issue) I called my friend Jason (KF4VDX) and he showed up the week before Christmas to check things out. My wiring in the house was fine and we changed out a breaker for the living room as it was needed anyway. Then we looked at the ground rod and discovered that the clamp to the rod was completely eroded and my ground rod and ground wire were BARELY touching!!!

The weather forecast called for thunderstorms the next day, and it was 10 o'clock at night when we discovered this, so the hardware stores were closed and I had no clamps here, so we ran to Walmart and looked for something...ANYTHING that would work in a fix. We settled on an automobile battery clamp and got the grounding issue settled. The next day I went to the hardware store and bought TWO ground clamps to ensure this would not happen again. Unfortunately with the rain (it was near constant the next several days) I couldn't get to it safely until the day after Christmas when I got back from a trip to the zoo with the family.

While I was at it, I took the wiring from my antenna and secured it to the electrical ground as well. Up until then I had it secured to a different ground rod. I was encouraged to put them on the same ground.

So life lesson learned. Sometimes, when I try to be a better ham, some of the most basic things are overlooked.

1 comment:

  1. Had the same problems here on Xmas Day Greg.
    The storm looked many miles away, and then, a massive local strike, that lit up the house, and literally shook it.

    With all the aluminium in the air, the ham gear was the first concern. Four squares, 80m wire beams, on aluminium towers, I cringed !

    Funnily enough, the ham gear was fine.
    It took out the wireless routers, (I think that was caused by it coming through the phone lines, not the power circuits), fridges, stove, television (but not the dvd, or video connected to it), so all in all pretty lucky.

    In so far as connecting to your household electricity earth stake, I found here, that caused a great deal of noise. A seperate earth stake here has always improved that situation, but your electricity system over there probably very different to ours.

    I don't know about you, but all in all, a pretty scary situation, and one I don't want to live through again, any time soon ?

    Paul VK7BBW (Big Bad Wolf)

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