Good Ground Systems are Expensive

This article does not constitute advice. Please consult an engineer or professional if you need help.  I read the excellent ARRL book Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur to get my inspiration for the ground system I am going to describe.

I’m using the word ground system for a reason.  I’m trying to accomplish multiple things by improving my station ground system:

  • AC Safety
  • Lightning Protection
  • RF Management

I want to show one diagram from W8JI’s website below.  It’s important because it is a reasonable proxy for what I’m trying to do.  See below.

Background:

  • There is no economical way for my feedlines to come in to the house next to the utility entrance, so my feedline entrance is separate than my utility entrance (where my power comes in).
  • My house’s AC service ground rod is in my basement.

What I decided to do:

  • Currently, I have one master feedline that goes out from my basement shack to a 4 position switch.  Just before the run hits the switch, I pass the run through a UHF-UHF bulkhead box that has a 5′ ground rod beneath it.  The attachment is done with #6 AWG wire.  My 43′ vertical also has 2 x 5′ ground rods beneath it bonded to the radial field of the antenna.  The goal of these ground rods is to keep as much energy away from my house, in the event of lightning hitting an antenna or nearby area.
  • I have three Alpha-Delta lightning Transi-Traps on the feedlines (one spare, one for HF described above, and one for VHF antennas).  The Transi Traps are rated at 2KW and are able to pass DC as I use DC for antenna switching.  These are located at my basement feed-line entrance. Each one has its’ own 5′ foot ground rod.  All the rods are bonded together.  The goal of these is to shunt off transient energy before it gets to the radios.
  • The Transi-Traps entrance point is bonded to the Utility AC service ground rod that is some 40ft away in the basement via #6 AWG wire (even if I brought the feedlines into the utility entrance. The Utility AC service basement ground rod is in a remarkably inconvenient location from both the service entrance and the feedline entrance (and about 50′ further from the antennas than the feedline entrance).
  • I also employ a perimeter ground loop.  The loop is 175′ of #4 AWG Copper wire. It is bonded to both the feedline entrance point and the AC service entrance.  The depth is about 12″. At the AC service entrance, I am using the same path to ground that the phone & internet companies are using to get to the AC service ground rod in the basement, via a small bus bar outside of the house with small gauge wire. The idea here is that based on a lightning strike to the antennas or the power lines without a perimeter ground, I may just be partially diverting the energy.  It’s my Alamo.  I’ve got more to do to beef this up – getting a professional to add heavy gauge access to the AC service ground rod (I have yet to price this out).  Another improvement will be to add more ground rods to the perimeter ground.
  • Each piece of equipment I have with a ground connection is attached to the system (Transceiver,  Power Supply, Antenna Tuner) via a short run of copper braid.  They all run to one point on a 2′ stand-alone copper pipe bus bar where they are firmly secured with hose clamps.  This bus bar is bonded to the run that goes between feedline entry ground and AC service ground.

Materials totaling $517:

  • Transi-Traps.  $55.00 x 3   =  $165.00
  • Ground Rods.  $12.00 x 6 =  $72.00
  • Ground Rod Clamps  $5.00 x 8  = $30.00
  • 100′ of #6 AWG  $75.00
  • 175′ of #4 AWG  $125.00
  • 2′ Copper Pipe Bus Bar  $20.00
  • 30′ of 1/2 inch copper braid  $30.00

 

Houseground-best

About this site

Hello!

Welcome to my website about my ham radio activities.  I’ve put this website together to help me keep a record of my own ham radio projects and activities.  I’m happy your here, but I’ve primarily written this website for myself.

But I think you could find some of the interesting information. It’s a living, breathing work in progress.

73, Jeff N1SNB

n1snb

Upcoming Contests & Station Work

I’ve been getting the station in gear for a serious effort (by my standards and for my equipment limitations) for the WPX contest.   Reviewing the rules, the focus is pretty simple.  Work anybody, anywhere but there are some special caveats that apply to my situation vis-a-vis making a high score.

  • Focus on Europe on 40m.  I’m the loudest here on this band and can reliably EU and hold a frequency (in any contest except CQ WW DX CW).  These QSOs are worth 6 points.(on 20m they are worth 3).
  • Canadians on 40m/80m/160m. There are lots of easy to work, strong Canadians east of Ontario.  They are worth 4 points.
  • Maximize operating time on 40m for EU (my sunset and their sunrise).  Numerous years of operating have taught me that the final 3 hours of the contest are very important for me on 40m.  The herd has thinned and if conditions are OK, I can put together a good run
  • Maximize operating time on 20m in the late mornings, early afternoons  – I’m at my worst when 20m just opens up.  I don’t have the low angle, high power combination to make this productive.
  • Don’t DX or even chase mults.  I can waste a lot of time in hopeless pileups.  For me, these are pileups on a North-South general path – where my local topography and low power are a losing combination.
  • Related to above,  I saw an idea from a K5ZD Contest University presentation to use VFO/memories of the radio to store stations to revisit while in S & P mode.  See the presentation.

Audio Mixing for a Ham Station

I made a nice enhancement to the station.  I had an old Dunestar audio mixer in my drawer.  It’s a neat little device that takes audio from two radios and then gives you the ability to mix the audio to your liking.  One or the other radio only, both radios and any mix of audio therein.  It’s a holdover from when I was building an SO2R operation.  But right now my plans aren’t for this kind of contest operating.

But – I’ve got another use for it.  I like to listen in on various nets and pileups and watch TV at the same time.  Voila – this mixer is perfect!  Another great application from my RTTY contesting days, is to tune RTTY and watch movies at the same time.

Very useful addition to this station.

dunestar

Ham Radio Club Meetings on Zoom?

I went to the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC)meeting on Zoom.

The meetings are normally in person, in a centrally located spot.  The clubs membership comes from all over England, parts of New York and Quebec.  In the past, getting to a club meeting requires 4 hours of driving.  I think in 15 years, I made it to 5 meetings.

But owing to COVID-19 we did on Zoom.  It was well run by W1UE, the club president. I think the attendees enjoyed it very much.  I think these video conference meetings are an absolutely wonderful medium for large regional clubs.  I hope they continue in the future. It’s great to see everyone and meet without giving up the whole day.

 

 

Station Work – What are your goals?

Being home in quarantine gives one a lot of time to think about future plans for the station.

My plans are coalescing now around a few key ideas I’d like to get done by October:

  • Get as loud as possible.  More contacts = more fun
    • Improve all band vertical with addition of new radials
    • Bring back 20m Delta Loop
    • Bring back DX-LB Dipole for 160-40
    • Purchase all AL-811 amplifier.  I’ve used these before.  They are cheap enough and reliable enough.
    • Get two permanently mounted RCS-4 boxes in the backyard to allow for expansion to 8 antennas:
      • 43′ All band vertical
      • 66′ 80m vertical
      • Phased 40m verticals  NE/SW
      • DX-LB 160-40m Inverted V at 40′  NE/SW
      • 20m/10m Delta Loop at 40′
      • 80m NVIS end fire wire at 8′
    • This is a setup that historically got it done for me back in 2011.
  • Get as automated as possible
    • IC7300 to become main radio and easily works with computer with just a USB cable

 

40m Early Net for the Century Club

I worked the 3905 40m Early Net on 7268 tonight.  Conditions were up and down right from the beginning.  I was hearing the NCS KG8WL at 40+ over S9 in the beginning by the 0245 he was down to S3.  I was able to make a few contacts, including KF7HNC (Oregon), WA1LNY (MA), NE0A (MO), W1PEF (NH), KN4EUK (FL), AA0ZP (NE).

To get membership in the club, you need to get 100 points on one band/mode combo. So by my count I got 5 points each for NE0A and AA0ZP.  This brings my total to 15 points.  I think the net is a pretty friendly group of people.  Everyone stays pretty relaxed on the net: exchange single reports, respect everyone then exchange QSLs. It’s a decent way to pass the time

Generally, I felt like I was hearing a lot better than others were hearing me.  Maybe in a week or so, I’ll get an Ameritron AL-811 amp going to get a little more juice.

On Monday, I’m going to be adding some radials to try and eek out a few DBs.  I’ve only got about 5 radials out that I was able to pull from the mud.  I’ve got the DX Engineering radial plate coming on Monday. It should really help me get the 43′ vertical sorted.  Also on Monday,  I’ll be using a new desktop microphone.  The hand mic I’m using is a little flat and unresponsive,  I’m hoping the desktop mic will pack a little more punch.

 

Flashback to 1997

I wrote this in 1997 for K3WWP’s. CW website.

It’s still active on his website.Hello, my name is Jeffrey Demers, I am 17 years old and an avid Amateur Radio enthusiast. My callsign is N1SNB. I was first licensed in 1994 as a Tech(-). I currently hold a General class license. I operate mainly on HF CW and VHF/UHF. My favorite mode of operation is CW! CW you say??? Yes, CW. I never thought for an instant that when I upgraded I would become interested in CW! CW to me was that useless mode that all the realllllly old-timers used. I thought I would never use it, I was going to be a SSB MAN. At the time I was having all these anti-cw thoughts I didn’t know much about equipment and antennas and didn’t have much money to spend on equipment. I wanted to get on HF, but couldn’t afford to purchase a “real” rig so I ordered an MFJ-9015 QRP CW transceiver with accessories..tuner/key. In all it cost about 220 dollars. When the equipment arrived I set up my station complete with 40 foot longwire hanging out my bedroom window. N1SNB was on the air!

In December 1994, I began studying Morse Code. I studied using code tapes from Radio Shack. Every night for three straight months I would sit down and practice code for thirty minutes at a time, trying to achieve the unattainable 13 wpm level. By February of 1995, I felt that I knew the code well enough to test, so I headed off to the local VE-testing site. On February 5, 1995 at 4:12pm I failed my five wpm examination!

If Steve, N1SG (the VE who gave my cw test) hadn’t encouraged me to stick with Morse Code and pass my test, I probably would have given up and focused on VHF stuff. Steve invited me to his station, showed me his equipment, and helped me study the code. On February 17, just two weeks later, not only did I pass five wpm, I passed the 13 wpm examination!! Below is a list of tips given to me, that were a big help when I was studying the code:
-Use more than one set of code practice tapes if possible, to avoid memorizing the tapes instead of learning them.
-Don’t study for more than thirty minutes at a time: you’re more likely to go downhill than uphill.
-Set a practice schedule and stick with it.

CW is only as hard as you want it be. If the people that cried about learning the code, spent half their crying time studying they probably would be filling up the bands at 40 wpm by now!

My first CW qso was with W9MYZ in Bigfork, MN. I proudly display that QSL card in my shack still. Even though it was the bottom of the sun cycle, and all I had for equipment was a 15m QRP radio, I made the most of it. I didn’t make many contacts, but I kept plugging out those CQ’s trying to fill those first few pages of my logbook. This is how I learned CW, I was forced into CW, SSB wasn’t a temptation. CW is such a powerful mode of operation, it is literally awesome. If you try to apply SSB to the situation described above, it just doesn’t work. Qrp+SSB+15m+ bottom of cycle=no way!!

In June 1995, I graduated to a Yaesu FT-101EE HF SSB/CW 160-10M rig. The local ham I bought it from at an extremely discounted price had “lost” the microphone, so again I was “just” on CW. With this rig new worlds opened up to me on all the new freqs. that my new radio had. It is at this point where one could officially call me an ADDICT. It was the summer, there was no school, I was on that radio probably five hours a day working any and every station I could on CW. CW was the mode for me. It was just so fascinating to be able to talk to other people in code, using such basic equipment and yet have so much fun in the process.

Finally in October, 1995 I mustered up enough dough for a microphone. What a disappointment!!!! Trying to work stations on 20M ssb w/100w and less than awesome antennas was an uninteresting challenge. I knew that on 20M CW there would be half the QRM, and twice as much DX. I also learned that 80M and 160M SSB are less than interesting for those hams that want to just call CQ. CQing on 80M SSB is usually met with anything but positive vibes. Again why bother with SSB and all the garbage that goes on in the SSB subband when I could go to the CW subband where more stations could hear me, and actually wanted to talk to me. My mic got put away except for some contests. I urge all younger hams to give CW a try, it is a great mode. Many people say CW is old-fashioned, and that it should be dropped. Many of these people have never operated CW, never will operate CW, and never wanted to operate CW. It is possible for people my age to enjoy CW. Don’t overlook it as an “old-timers” mode, it isn’t. Get on the CW bands and give it try, I think you’ll like it.

I have met so many fascinating people on CW, and had so many great QSOs it is impossible to say which were the “best” or most memorable. The feeling of great excitement when I broke my first pileup, and worked D68SE on the other side of the world comes to mind. My first QSO with Europe on 80M was with my rain gutter loaded as an antenna. My first QSO with an Asian station. I am glad I became a CW MAN, be cause looking back I wouldn’t have wanted to miss these CW experiences for all the money in the world.

Its now 1997, I still love to operate CW, and do so on an almost daily basis. Since 1995, I have made over 18,000 QSOs. I have the necessary QSLs to receive my WAC, WAS, WPX-1000, US-CA 500 and DXCC. I have WAS on separate 15/20/40/80M CW, I have WAS on 40M QRP CW as well. I have worked 158 countries on CW. CW is a great mode. It is possible to accomplish so much with a simple and inexpensive setup, using CW. During the week I am usually on 7030 kHz around 2100z daily, if you hear me, give me a call!

73! From New Hampshire
Jeff Demers

Report written in 1997 when Jeff was 17.

A Tune Around – the 3905 Century Club

Tonight I took my own Coronavirus Quarantine advice and participated in the the 3905 Century Club net on 7268.  It took me a few minutes to find the net at the appointed 8pm hour as it had moved down to 7258, but I emailed club VP Bob, KN4EUK and he set me straight as to the where and when.

This was my first net in 20+ years.  As a teenager, I participated in a traffic net (and was even occasionally a net control), the Granite State FM Net.  It was nightly on the W1ALE repeater in Concord NH (146.94?).  I’m talking like 1994 here.

A year or two later,  I regularly participated in the 14.247 DX Net on 20m SSB.  It was raucous affair in the mid 90s.  I remember working some great DX on the net like Mayotte and some missionaries in the Cameroon on the net.  As a teenage ham, this was BIG DX.   Sadly, I haven’t kept any of my log books or QSL cards – so these contacts are floating at the edge of my memory….

Why do I mention this?  Well, I think it means that I am ok with award and DX nets and I submit my history as evidence along with the following facts:

  1. I am a terrible rag chewer. I get bored with the pro-forma exchanges while also recognizing I don’t like talking to people I don’t know (a bad combo) – but I’m from New England what do you expect?  We’re not social.
  2. I like to make a lot of contacts.  I enjoy contesting.  I like using the radio

So what is the 3905 Century Club?  Well, apparently it’s a big deal.  Ham radio is endlessly interesting because their are some many sub-communities doing their own thing.  This is one such community.  These guys and gals chase paper (QSL cards) trying to get all sorts of different awards they list on their website, like Worked All States

I checked in.  Gary, K9GWS was net control.  He was assisted by Ralph, KG8WL.  They took checkins by call area.  There were about 75 in total.  At check-in, everyone is assigned a sequential number (1-75). When your number gets called by net control a bit of a game ensues and you signal your intention to net control to make one of these choices:  You can call any station, let those that want to call you make a try at it (“up for grabs”), or pass.  Basically, you’re just completing a basic QSO exchanging signal reports and net control verifies the contact.

As a net rookie, I was flattered to get many calls in the first pass through.  It was a pretty chill environment and even though I didn’t quite know every element of protocol, everyone was polite and welcoming.   I made about 9 contacts in total.  When my turn came up, I opted to call the loudest station I could hear,  Donnie, KG4ZOD in North Carolina.  I didn’t want to blow it and call someone that couldn’t hear me.

On their website, they list other nets on 75m SSB and some nets on other bands and even stuff on RTTY, PSK31 and CW.  I’ll have to check it out.