In this article I want to go over the importance of why you should always ground your outdoor TV antenna. Not only will we cover, why, but we’ll also cover how to properly ground a TV antenna.
Full Disclaimer! Whenever performing electrical work it is always advised you contact a licensed professional in your area. This article serves only as a reference and is not intended, nor does it constitute, any professional direction or advice.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) and the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) requires that every television antenna installation must be grounded. These are the national codes, so be sure to check with your local State or Province for any regional type codes that must be adhered to for your specific location.
Before we get started let’s take a look at a few different concepts that are important when we say that we are going to “ground” something or “bond” something. Specifically let’s look at grounding and why we ground metal objects. Let’s also look at bonding, and what it means to bond metal objects. These two concepts serve two different roles and are often confused.
What Does It Mean To “Ground” Something?
Grounding and bonding are probably the least understood and improperly implemented part of an electrical system. Before we get into what grounding is and how to properly ground a TV Antenna, let’s debunk two myths right away:
Electricity is trying to get to the earth…WRONG! Electricity is trying to get back to the source of it’s creation and it will use the earth as a PATH if needed.
Electricity takes the path of least resistance…WRONG!!! Electricity takes all available paths proportional to the resistance and the source of its creation.
“Grounding of metal parts” of electrical equipment is the intentional connection of the equipment to the earth. Failure to properly ground metal parts to the earth could result in high voltage being applied to metal parts if lightning strikes.
“Effectively grounded” if metal object are intentionally connected to the earth via a low impedance (resistance) path.
“System grounding” to the earth is for lightning and Line Surge issues. It will NEVER aid in the clearing of a breaker or fuse in your actual house.
What Does It Mean To “Bond” Something?
“Bond, bonded or bonding” means the permanent joining of metallic parts to form an electrically conductive path which provides the capacity to conduct safely any current likely to be imposed on it.
What is important to understand with bonding is that proper bonding of your TV Antenna, Mounting Pole and/or conduit offers a low resistance path to the earth via your equipment grounding conductor in the event of a lightning strike. Without this PATH lightning will find another way to get to the earth, that could be through your antenna cable and/or even worse, your HOUSE!
Therefore, it is extremely important that all the metal parts of your TV Antenna hardware are bonded together and that a grounding conductor (wire) is installed to connect your TV antenna to your grounding rod or ground plate.
How To Properly Ground A TV Antenna
The NEC requires that the antenna mast be grounded directly. If you look at the image below, you’ll want to use a #6 AWG or #8 AWG Solid Copper ground wire for all of your grounding runs and suitable Ground Clamps. Below is an image taken form the NEC code book that shows how to properly ground a TV antenna. Depending on your geographic region this could vary slightly, however, the basic installation remains largely unchanged.
While grounding your TV antenna is not a difficult job, it certainly won’t cost you too much, and may even provide you with a little piece of mind, to have a licensed professional either perform the installation, or at the very least, verify your installation meets the applicable codes for your area.
Either way, I think this image will serve as a very useful tool to help visualize the basic connections needed to properly ground an outdoor TV antenna.
Step #1 – Mount Your TV Antenna
Determine where you will mount your antenna – mount your TV antenna in a location that will provide you with good structural support. Whatever location you choose, be sure to also consider the direction of your transmission broadcast towers so that you have the clearest line of sight possible.
Securely mount your antenna – using the provided mounting hardware, mount your TV antenna to your rooftop or to the side of your house as illustrated in the picture above. Be sure to follow all mounting instructions that accompanied your antenna for safe and secure installation. Note, if you are mounting to your rooftop, be sure to use a roof sealant to cover up the screws to prevent any chance of water getting through.
Step #2 – Locate Your House’s Service Grounding Conductor (Wire)
If you go down to your basement and locate your electrical panel, you should see a solid copper wire that goes from your electrical panel through your wall to the outside. This wire will connect to a grounding electrode (ground rod) or a grounding plate.
In the illustration above, the is shown as the “Power Service Grounding Electrode System”. Locate this system grounding conductor and place a ground clamp on it. Amazon has many different styles and varieties of Ground Clamps and they’re fairly inexpensive. The size of the clamp is usually based on the size of the wire that your are clamping to.
Depending on where your live and the size of your service, your houses service grounding conductor could be anywhere from a #2 AWG to a #6 AWG.
Remember, the NEC requires a minimum #10 AWG grounding wire for your antenna. I recommend a #6 AWG or #8 AWG Solid Copper ground wire from Amazon. Using solid wire is preferred over stranded because stranded wire can become brittle over time when exposed to the elements.
Step #3 – How To Properly Ground a TV Antenna Mast
Using an Antenna Mast Ground Clamp, run the other end of the ground wire you connected in Step #2 to your antenna mast and secure it tightly. Again the clamp you will need will depend on the diameter of your antenna mast.
Step #4 – How To Ground Your Coax Cable
Now it’s time to ground your TV antenna’s coax cable. The coax cable itself can build up a static electric charge and in order to properly dissipate that charge an antenna discharge unit or grounding block can be used (again check you local code rules).
Again these types of Coax Ground Blocks can be found right on Amazon and are fairly inexpensive. Although not shown in this picture, I do recommend also using Coax Surge Protectors that are rated up to at least 1500 MHz to provide another layer of protection.
That’s it! You now know how to properly ground a TV antenna!
A couple of small tips before I let you go.
- Antenna masts that are painted, badly rusted, or have some kind of coating on them, be sure to scrape the areas where the metal parts meet to ensure good bonding. After the antenna mast hardware and mount are securely connected, there is no issue in repainting afterwards.
- Securely fasten the grounding wire to the side of your house using staples or other zip-screw type wire clamp suitable for the job.
- Try to keep your ground wire runs as short as possible and avoid making 90 degree turns or bends. If you need to bend the ground wire, make the bends as gradual and as smooth as possible. The reason is lightning doesn’t like to turn corners, and what you don’t want is for a lightning strike to discharge into your house.
What If Lightning Does Strike!
In the unlikely event that lightning does strike your TV antenna, even if you’ve done all the proper grounding to it, there is no guarantee that damage won’t be caused.
The simple truth is, when lightning strikes, it’s going to do whatever it’s going to do, and the best we can do is provide a low impedance (resistance) path to get that energy back to the earth as quickly and as safely as possible. The good news is lightning strikes are extremely rare!
If your still worried about damage being caused to your equipment or your television set in the event of a lightning strike, you can always disconnect the coax cable from your devices when you know a storm is coming.
Well I hope this article has given you a good idea how to properly ground a TV antenna. Again, this article should only be used as a reference. It is always a good idea to consult you local licensed electrician or antenna installer to ensure that you meet all the requirements and applicable electrical codes for your country or region.
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The Antenna Guy!