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lightning protection-taming thors thunder-on a budget

lightning protection-taming thors thunder-on a budget

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05/11/2014

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e
a
ra&o
hobbyist,yourradio
I
ent
is
extremelyvaluabletoyou. investment,
and
likeallinvest-
ments
itneedsprotection.
One
way
topro-tectthatinvestmentisbymakingsurethat 'youhaveadequatelightningprotection
in
'
place.
There
are
plenty
of
sources'explaining
how
toprotectyourradio shack
from
lightningdamage,but
few
peopleimplement
the
proper
protectionbecauseoftheperceived
high
cost
of
(copper)suppliei.WhiIe
this
-articlecer-
tainly
isn't
the
"last word"onthesubject, itwill
show
you
thatyoudon't
have
to
take
an
expensiveapproachandprovide
-
.youwith
tips
on
how
toproperlyprotectyourstation-without
breaking
the
bank.
First,let'sdispelsomeoldwives' talesregarding
Lightning.
Forstarters,
it
ispossibletotake
a
directlightningstrike
toy
our
antennamast,tower,or othersup-
port
withoutyourequipmentsuffering
.damage.
Commercid,police,
fire,
and
,
ambuiance
systems,
ceil
phone
towers,
A
worker
"Cadweldingm
see
text)
#2
olidcopperwirewlthGinch-wideflatcopper
I,
1
broadcast
stations,
etc.
take
direct
light-
strap.Thedarkmaterialaround
the
copperstrap
is
Harger
"groundenhancement."
ning
stnkes
during
most
largeIightning
storms,
and
whenthey'reproperly
pro-
tected
they
don'tsuffer
any
damage.
True,
that
equipment
does
have
extensive
groundsystems
and
shiny
copper
strapsthat
cost
a
lot
of
moneytohaveinstalled, butit'spossible
to
addprotection
on
a
budget.
Don't
listen
to
those
misin-
formed
folks
who
say
"Nothing
can
pro-
tect
from
a
direct
lightning
strike."
Radioequipmentsurviveslightning
strikes
all
the
time.Butwait,you
say,
doesn't
a
typical
lightningbolthavemillionsofvolts
and
many
thousands
of
ampsofpower?
Well,
yes,they
can.
But
lightningbolts,likelots ofotherthings,come
in
all
differentsizes.
While
a
large,powerfullightningstrike of
several
"strokes"
of
longer
than
nor-
maldurationcan
have
lots
of
power,even
the
largest
strikes
can
be
handled
with
largelow-inductanceconductorsbecause
of
the
very
short
durationofeven
the
.longest
and
largest
strikes.
Indeed,
part
of
the
confusion
over
theyearsaboutlightningstems
from
thefactthat
lightning
strikescanbe
large
or
small.
So
when
someone
tells
you
thac
his
sta-
tion
was
hitwitha
direct
lightning
strike
andsuffered
no
damage,despite
having
only
minimal,
rounding
with
small-sizeconductors,hat
may
betrue-but
he
may
have
been
extraordinarilyluckyandtaken only
a
minorhit.
In
these
tough
economictimes,
why
take
chances
withyourvaluable
equip-
ment,especially
when
it
can
be
safe-
guardedinexpensively?
17
-<
-
Proven
Approaches
For
The
Frugal
Hobbyist
Thefirstorder
of
business
for
proper-lyprotecting
a
station-orhomefor
that
matter-isto
make
sure
youbond
(that
is,
electricallyconnect)
all
ground
pointstogetherwith
a
low-inductanceconduc-tor,
such
as
a
flatcopper
strap
or
a
heavygauge
wire.
Thismeansthatyour
electric
power
entrance
ground,cable
TV
entrance,
telephonelandhe
entrance,
hamshack
ground,
mast
or
towerground,
etc.
all
need
to
bebondedtogether.
Think
ofyourequipmentlike
a
boaton
a
rough
sea:
When
a
large
wav-
The
actualdeviceused(lightningarrestor,groundingcoax
switch,
etc.).,ismuchlessimportant
than
theproperbondingandgroundmg
of
coax
shieldsbefore
they
enter
the
building.
It's
alsoimportantto'
understand
that
damage
from
lightningtomosthomestations comes
in
via
surgestotheelectric
AC
powersystem,
and
notfromdirectanten-
na
stnkes,except
in
rare
cases.
A
VERY
importantstep
in
protectionistoinstall
a
"whole-houseH-type
of
surge
suppressoratyourelectrical powerentrancepanel.
Such
protectors
are
avaiIablefrommostelectricshops,
home
supplystores,orcompaniesspe- cializingin
these
devices.Asuitabledeviceshould
cost
between
$50
and
$100
or
so
retail,
althoughI've
found
whoIehouseprotectors(Delta
LA
302-
R)
on
eBay
for
only
$35.
Such
protec-torsmust
be
installedin
the
main
break-erpanel.
If
you
are
notcomfortable
working
in
this
way,
hire
aprofessionalelectriciantoinstallit. Whenlightningstrikesthepower
Line
inyourneighborhood,
the
power
com-lightning
strike,
inour
case4auses
pany
arrestor
on
thepole
(or
under-
everything
to
move
up
and
down
togeth-
ground
pedestal)willdivertmuchof
the
er,theequipmentissafe.
Damage
hap-surge
to
ground,but
there
willstill
be
a
pens
whefl
there
is
a
potentialdifferenceverylargespike
of
energyentering,
your
betweenground
paths;
bondingelimi-home.It'sthe
job
of
thiswhole-house
nates
that
tllfference.
Bondingisofprotectorto
dump
much
of
that
to
ground
extreme
importanceandwe'llget
back
o
right
at
theentrancepanel.Then
the
it
shortly.
familiar
surge
suppressoroutlet-type
POP'COMM
MAY
2009
15
 
strips
have
a
much
better
chance
of
getting
thesurge
down
to
a
Ievel
that
won'tdamageyourdevices.
The
Ties
That
Bond
Now
let'sget
back
to
bondingyourgroundstogether.
Just
hooking
a
Light-gaugewirebetweenthegrounds
is
not
enough.
You
need
a
low-resistance,low-inductanceconductor
(in
this
case,
lowinductance
means
having
lotsof
surface
area;
see
htcp:llmembers.cox.net/pc-usalstationlinductance.htm
ormore).
This
is
where
many
hobbyiststhrowuptheir
hands
in
despair
as
theycheck outthe
prices
of
#2
stranded
copper
wire,orsimilar.
Copper
pricesrecently
surpassed
$4/pound,
making
itbeyond
the
mans
ofmany
of
us.While
prices
havecomedown
since,
retailcopperproducts
remain
fairlyexpensive,
but
a
little
legwork(orphonework)canpay
off
in
a
big
way
here.
A
latcopper
strap
of
between
2
to
6
nches
wide
by
about
.025
inch
thickisthematerial
of
choice,but
it
can
k
uite
steep
ifboughtfrom
a
lightning
protectioncompanyat
full
retail.In
most
cases,
you
can
go
right
to
yourlocal
home
supply
store
andbuy
(or
order)copper
roof
flashingformuch
less.
An
even
betterlow-costsource
could
be
an
upscalerooferorroofing company
that
installscopperflashing.
All
willhave
"scraps"
that
can
be
purchased
forjustabove
scrapprices.
The
seamlessroof
gutterinstallationcompanies
are
anothergoodsource.
They
mostly
use
aluminum,
butusuallyhavecopperavailable.(Note: Do
make
sure
you
watch
outfor
the
really
paper-thin
copper,
which
isnothing
morethan
decorative.
It
looksand
feels
like
copper
"tin
foil:'
and
ihatmaterial
is
much
too
thin
for
ground-
ing.
You
want
copper
that
is
about
.020
nch
or
so
thick,
or
about
the
thicknw
s
of
both
sides
of
a
pager
matchbookcover).Speaking
of
aluminum,
it'susuallynot
a
god
deatousealuminum
asa
bondingconductor-atleastoutdoors
and
cer-
tainly
notunderground.Although
aluminum
is
a
great
electricalconductor,there
are
seriouscorrosion
problems
associated
with
transitioning
betweencopper
and
aluminum,
and
aluminum
turns
toawhitepowder
in
many
soiltypes.Spend
the
extraefforttofindcopper.
If
you
have
to
run
wire
insteadof
flat
copper
strap
becauseyouwereunabletoobtainenoughof
a
good
widestrap,use
the
largest
size
wireyou
can
get.
Here
again,
old,
used
copper
wire
will
work
every
bit
as
well
as
shiny
new
sta,
and
outdoors
or
underground
no
one
will
know
the
difference!Check
with
local
scrap
yardsforsome
nice
heavy
copper
wire.
Othersourcesincludeconstructionor
wrecking
companies
that
teardown
buildings.
Offer
to
paymore
than
they
couldget
at
the
scrap
yard
for
some
of
the
heavy
copper
wire.
Even
plainhousehold
copper
wire
can
be
used
with
a
little
planning.
Common
#12
or#14
gauge
plasticinsulated
home
wire
can
be
stripped
of
itsinsulationeasily
with
a
knife.It's
then
an
easymatterto
attach
a
number
of
strandsofthat
wire
to
an
elec-
tric
dnll
motor
on
oneendandto
a
vise
on
the
other
and
twisttheminto
a
larger
size
wire.
nother
possible
low-cost
conduc-
torisflexible(soft)copper
tube.
A
gqd
size
is
318
inch,
and
even
new
on
sale
this
costs
less
than
a
dollq
a
foot.
As
an
electricalconductor,tubing
is
almost
as
good
as
solid
#2
copperwire.It
is
important
to
keep
a
fairly
Iargeradiuson
all
bends
in
the
wire
or
strap(nosharpbends!).
Andtry
to
keep
your
conduc-
torsalwayspointingdownward40n't
have
them
point
down
and
then
back
up,
thenback
down,,etc.
A
spectacular
showerofsparks
as
the
Gadweld
exothermic
material
bums,
producing
the
weld
between
a
#2
copper
wireand
a
518-inch
coppercladground
rod.
The
blackcolorgraphitemold
containing
the
molten
weld
metal
Is
clearlyseen.
Grounding
Rods
Most
hobbyistshowthatground
rods
need
to
be
driven
for
an
effective
ground
system,
but
many
don't
know
hatthose
rods
should
be
spacedabout
twice
as
far
apart
as
their
depth.
For
instance,
you
should
space
rods
that
are
eight
feet
deep
abut
16
feetapart;
if
you
space
them
closer,
they
loseeffec-tiveness.
Again,
bondthe
rods
together
with
copper
wire
or
strap.
Power
company
research
has
shown
that
#6
copper
wire
can
handleapproximately
96
percentof
all
direct
lightning
strikeswithoutfusingopen.
(Research
also
foundthat
it
was
much
more
economical
for
the
power
companies
to
just
replace
material
damaged
by
thosevery
rare
"huge"
lightning
boltsthatoverwhelmed
#6
wire
rather
than
use
heavier
gauge
wireat
each
power
pole.
mically,
only
critical
locations
that
simply
cannot
be
allowed
to
fail,
like
talltower
sites
or
elec-
txic
power
substations,
will
use
much
larger
diameter
wire.)
Nice,
shmy
new
518-inch
heavy
copper-cladsteelrods
sell
for
about
$10
each
inhome
supply
stores.
Most
installations
shouldhave
at
least
six
driven
rods,dependingon
surrounding
soiltype.
For
instance,
ifyouhavewet,
swampy
soilyou
my
etbywith
fewer
groundrods
than
if
you're
ontop
of
a
sandy,
dry
soilhill.
If
deep
rods
can't
be
sunk,additionalshorterrods,
or
a
large
radial
wire
system
wilIworkto
provide
a
good
ground.
In
extreme
cases,
where
it's
hardto
drive
in
rods
of
any
depth,
a
homebrewedground
enhanced
rod
can
be
made
up
of
a
section
of
used
copper
pipe
that's
dnlled
full
of
holes
and
filled
with
rocksalt.
Bury
it
as
deep
as
you
can,
laced
vertically,
horizontally,orwhatever.
Scan
Our
Web
Site

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