Nothing can induce more stress into an Amateur Radio operator than an approaching lightning spewing storm. Most of us experienced a sense of urgency to disconnect our cable feeds upon hearing the growling of a lightning storm approaching. However, electrical storm are just one event to consider.
Air (wind), rain, snow and ice are sometimes electrically charged and when traveling thru your antenna system, will produce electricity and a lots of it! Voltage produced from this weather induced current can easily be between 5000 and 100,000 volts, depending on how much ionization of the air (Air molecules, snow flakes, rain drops or ice pellets) there is and how fast it travelling thru your antenna. A static spark requires 20,000 volts to jump 1 inch. In some cases, there is enough current to make you not want to touch your coax a second time. Imagine what it can do to your sensitive equipment!
If your antenna is not properly grounded before your feed cables enter your shack, you might put at risk all of your radio components (Transceiver, Tuner, Linear Amplifier, Antenna switcher, or yourself! ). This applies to all kinds of antennas, as you’ll see in one of the demonstration videos below, you can hear the static discharge of the BNC connector from a simple VHF dipole a few feet off the ground.
Here are some of the best examples I have found of antenna related static electricity discharges. If these videos don’t convince you to review your grounding strategy, make sure your insurance covers static damage to your gear. Sometimes, radio amateur clubs offer or include protection insurance against damages to equipment by weather static or electrical discharges. You should inquire toward your local club if your membership covers such events or ask for it.
So. what can you do to help you get rid of all of this static buildups ?
I found a videos that might help you properly ground your antenna system or at least determine if your antenna has proper grounding.
And finally, some recommended reading…
IW5EDI Simone: Grounding Is the Key To Good Reception
This site (IW5EDI – Simone) has excellent detailed articles of all kinds. A gold mine!