So you’ve cut the cable and you’ve decided on an outdoor antenna to grab all of those glorious (and free) high definition channels floating on the airwaves. Most modern outdoor antennas are fairly easy to set up, however they do require a bit more effort than the indoor variety. When setting up an outdoor antenna, one of the things that usually slips people’s minds is grounding their antenna. This is also called “earthing” your antenna. So what does it mean to ground your antenna? Wondering how to ground an antenna?
Why You Should Ground Your Outdoor Antenna
Since outdoor antennas are typically metal (even the plastic ones have metal inside) and installed at the highest point of the house, they can be susceptible to lightning strikes. If lightning strikes an antenna that isn’t grounded properly, it has the potential to start a fire. Even if you live in an area that doesn’t experience lightning all that often, you’ll still want to ground your outdoor antenna for two reasons. First off, static electricity build up also has the ability to start a residential fire. A grounded antenna provides a path for that electricity to disperse into the ground as opposed to your home. Secondly, grounding an antenna may improve your overall reception, however results are varied.
Do I Really Need To Ground My Outdoor Antenna?
Yes. In fact, according to the United States National Electrical Code (NEC), it’s the law. A grounded antenna can direct electricity away from your house and into the ground (hence the word term “antenna grounding”). While the chances of lightning hitting your house directly is pretty slim, a grounded antenna still protects you from “indirect” electrical hazards. Without getting too science-y, lightning is really powerful. Even a strike somewhere in your general vicinity can be dangerous to an antenna that doesn’t go to ground.
Grounding an antenna is done in two steps. First, you are going to run copper wire from the mast of your antenna down to the house ground wire or grounding rod. Secondly you are going to ground the TV antenna transmission line (the coaxial cable). You will need a few supplies, however they can all be found at your local hardware store or through online distributors like Amazon.
How to Ground an Antenna: What You’ll Need
- Solid copper wire. The NEC recommends that your grounding wire be a minimum of 10 AWG (American Wire Gauge).
- Ground connector clamps. These secure your grounding wire.
- Copper ground strap. This will secure the grounding wire to your outdoor antenna mast.
- Antenna discharge unit. This grounds your coaxial (transmission line).
- Ground rod (optional). This can be used to ground instead of your house ground wire.
- Wire staples (optional). These can be used to secure your grounding wire to the side of your house.
The author of this article is not a certified electrician. Grounding an antenna isn’t a difficult process, and as such it shouldn’t be terribly expensive to have a professional do it for you. If the idea of electrical hazards give you the willies, HowtoWatch recommends that you contact a professional.
How To Ground a TV Antenna Mast
We’ll start with grounding the mast, but you can start with grounding your antenna transmission line if you prefer. Attach one end of your solid copper wire to the outdoor antenna mast using the copper ground strap. It is recommended that any paint or coating on the mast be scrapped off to ensure a solid connection between the copper wire and the antenna. Once the mast and the wire are connected, be sure to cover any exposed metal with paint or sealant.
Next, you’ll want to run the copper wire down the side of your house as directly as possible. You can use wire staples to secure your grounding wire to the side of the house if you wish to do so. Since electricity has a hard time navigating sharp turns, you’ll want to keep your grounding wire as straight as possible. Failure to do so can inadvertently cause an electrical charge to discharge into the house. If you have to make bends in the wire, make them as smooth and gradual as possible.
Finally, run your grounding wire to either your house ground wire or a ground rod. The house ground wire may be labelled “power service grounding electrode”, and it is the wire near your electric meter (where power runs into your house). Use a ground connector clamp to attach your grounding wire to your house ground wire. Alternatively, use a ground connector clamp to connect your grounding wire to the ground rod. If using a ground rod, it must be driven a minimum of three feet into the ground.
How To Ground an Antenna Transmission Line (Coaxial)
Your coaxial cable can accumulate static electricity, which can be dangerous. To draw off this electrical charge, you’ll need to use an antenna discharge unit. This unit is installed between the coaxial cable running from the antenna and the one coming from your house. Attach one end of the grounding wire to the discharge unit and the other end to either your ground rod or your house ground wire. And that’s it! You’ve successfully grounded both the antenna mast and the coaxial.