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Author Topic: Country home prone to lightning strikes - looking for input on other things too  (Read 3589 times)
HAPLO
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« on: July 12, 2011, 01:00:02 AM »

Hello all,

I'm new to the ham world. My first opportunity to take the technician exam will be the 30th of this month. I've been reading various threads on this forum for the last month, and am 1/4th the way through the ARRL technician exam manual, with only about 4 days of reading so far. I do have a TON of questions, since I'm starting from scratch on all of this, but I suppose I'll hold off on most of those until I get some obligatory hazing and just ask two that are on my mind now. Smiley

I live in an old country home on a hill, in the middle of a field, that has several lightning rods on it. I have 7 very tall trees around my home too. I've lived there for the last decade, and have personally witnessed one of my trees get hit twice since I've been there. So, putting up an antenna has me concerned about lightning protection. I've used gas filled lightning arrestors at my day job, setting up 2.4 and 5.8GHz parabolic building-to-building network bridges, but that little inline "fuse" has me concerned for a direct strike, which my location seems to be privy to. What should I do to limit my exposure to lightning? Are those inline fuses sufficient? Will those lightning rods have any affect on a roof mounted antenna?

I'm also seeking advice on my first radio. My own research has led me to consider the Icom IC-208H, and the Yaesu FT-8900R. I read the reviews on this site about them, and the Yaesu seems like a good deal since it covers all the bands, but that's where my inexperience with this leaves me as far as other features I may want. I can tell you that this will initially be in my shack, but will eventually be a mobile in my truck as my experience and desire grows.

73 and thanks,
H.
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W8JI
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2011, 02:31:45 AM »

I get hit all the time here. I have a 318 ft tower and a bunch of other towers that are the tallest things for miles, and I am on a slight ridge.

I don't have a single little gas thing on my feedlines. All of the protection is in entrance panels and wiring, tower grounds, and buried cables. Every week for the past few weeks there has been at least one direct hit here.

http://www.w8ji.com/ground_systems.htm

73 Tom
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WA3SKN
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2011, 04:29:28 AM »

If you are concerned about lightning hitting the house, make sure those lightning rods have a good ground.  If you are concerned about lightning hitting those trees, install lightning rods in the trees... again with a good ground system.  And if concerned about lightning and antennas, use GROUNDED antennas!  Things will be hit so plan on it!
As for first radios, check out what repeaters are in your area.  Then you can decide.  And get in touch with any local clubs.  They will know what is happening locally and can give good advice on where to start.  And remember that FT8900 is ONLY FM, and does not do 10 meter SSB/CW... which is what a technician would need to operate.

-Mike.
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AA4HA
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2011, 06:26:57 AM »

And remember that FT8900 is ONLY FM, and does not do 10 meter SSB/CW... which is what a technician would need to operate.

Sorry, that implies that operating SSB or CW on 10 meters is a requisite for all technician class license holders.


-----------------
As far as lightning protection; Having low resistance, low impedance grounds, all commonly bonded together is the first requirement. If there is any spot in your electrical system where a differential can exist there will be current flow and significant voltage potential differentials that will result in something getting damaged or blown up. The little coaxial gas tube protectors are "nice" but many amateurs place some mystical quality upon them as being the cure-all for lightning damage.

Commercial sites get hit all of the time and what keeps them up and running is proper grounding and bonding techniques.

Tisha Hayes
AA4HA
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
KB1TXK
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2011, 06:36:06 AM »

And remember that FT8900 is ONLY FM, and does not do 10 meter SSB/CW... which is what a technician would need to operate.

Sorry, that implies that operating SSB or CW on 10 meters is a requisite for all technician class license holders.


-----------------
As far as lightning protection; Having low resistance, low impedance grounds, all commonly bonded together is the first requirement. If there is any spot in your electrical system where a differential can exist there will be current flow and significant voltage potential differentials that will result in something getting damaged or blown up. The little coaxial gas tube protectors are "nice" but many amateurs place some mystical quality upon them as being the cure-all for lightning damage.

Commercial sites get hit all of the time and what keeps them up and running is proper grounding and bonding techniques.

Tisha Hayes
AA4HA

I thought that tech license doesn't allow people to use the FM portion of the 10m band?
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AC5UP
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2011, 06:48:36 AM »

I thought that tech license doesn't allow people to use the FM portion of the 10m band?

It doesn't, but the FT-8900 is a quad band FM rig that covers 10m, 6m, 2m plus 70cm.

http://texastowers.com/yaesu_ft8900r.htm

Three out of four bands on the radio are legal for a Technician.
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Never change a password on a Friday                
KI4SDY
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Posts: 1452




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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2011, 07:07:28 AM »

The FT8900 is designed primarily for repeater use. While that is fine for 2 and 70 centimeters, you need to check the on site listings for any local 10 meter repeaters. There may not be any. Most hams on 10 meters use SSB because it is a more efficient transmission mode for long distance communications. Some hams like to use beams on these frequencies for longer distant point to point and NVIS FM communications. The lower the frequency, the more likely you are to be able to take advantage of NVIS on a regular basis. In the case of this radio, 10 meters will be the most likely to take advantage of the phenomenon. If there is no local 10 meter repeater, I think you will be disappointed in your purchase.  Sad

If it were me, I would save a little more money and buy a Yaesu 857D or FT817ND. These radios are ready for your next step into HF without buying any more equipment. In the long run, it is cheaper! Take the General exam at the same time you take the Technician. You may pass!  Grin

As far as the lightning, I agree that you need to check the grounds on your lightning rods and your main ground outside meter box. make sure there is a long main ground rod there and that it is bonded to the lightning rods and any antennas that you erect. An antenna is just another lightning rod essentially. Follow W8JI's best grounding diagram and that is all you can do to protect yourself, your home and your equipment. There is a long running argument about totally disconnecting (that means everything, coax, power cords, etc.) your radio equipment when not in use and when storms are coming. If you have an outside grounded entrance panel bonded to the main ground it would be something to consider, if you are afraid of losing your equipment. Others would encourage you to just take a chance.  Undecided

Also, check the outside ground connections on your main and lightning rod grounds for corrosion. If you see any, clean them up and apply electrical conductive grease you can get from Ace Hardware. If they are not maintained, it reduces your level of protection!  Wink  

    
« Last Edit: July 12, 2011, 07:23:39 AM by KI4SDY » Logged
KB1TXK
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2011, 08:27:12 AM »

I thought that tech license doesn't allow people to use the FM portion of the 10m band?

It doesn't, but the FT-8900 is a quad band FM rig that covers 10m, 6m, 2m plus 70cm.

http://texastowers.com/yaesu_ft8900r.htm

Three out of four bands on the radio are legal for a Technician.
I may have misinterpreted AA4HA's previous comment.
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AD4U
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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2011, 09:48:39 AM »

I have a similar situation.  I live in the middle of 700 acres.  The 14KV primary power line that feeds my house is a mile long and runs through open fields.  I am the only house on the power line and of course I am at the end.  Being at the end is never a good thing.  I have had 3 major lightning events in the past year with damage totalling over $15,000.

Recently (at my request) the local power company spent 2 days "inspecting and rebuilding" the mile long power line.  They found many problems on their side.  The major one was many poles did not even have a ground wire on them - never did.  They installed 40 foot deep ground rods and lightning arrestors on the 5 poles before the end of the line.  They made sure every pole on the line had a decent ground.  They installed a lightning arrestor on every third pole all the way out to the highway.

They tested the ground at the ground rod under the meter at my house.  It read 73 ohms.  They installed 3 more ground rods about 8 feet apart and tied all 4 together.  The ground at the house now reads 16 ohms.  Ditto at the meter at my shop.  I know this reading will vary according to a number of factors, but it is a whole lot better than before.

Then it was my turn.  I made sure everything (TV mast on the chimney, satellite dish pipe, both AC units, telephone junction box, small tower by the house, etc, etc) was properly bonded to the ground at the meter base.  This is just common sense, but in my case, what I thought was a good power company ground really was not.

Dick  AD4U

PS:  The tower has its own ground system, but it is now tied into the much improved power line ground.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2011, 05:08:54 AM by AD4U » Logged
K1CJS
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2011, 10:12:10 AM »

Even if you're not directly hit, if you've got a poor ground system, you're going to have problems.

My father's house had what seemed to be a good ground connection--an iron pipe that ran out 120 feet to a shed.  The people who owned the place before my dad bought it kept chickens many years ago.  He had, over the years he owned the property, both temporary and some permanent damage from lightning which seemed to get worse with time, even though it didn't strike directly on his property. 

Come to find out that the supposed good ground had rotted away, the ground was now a pipe through the house foundation and a foot or so beyond it.  We drove a ground rod into the basement floor and connected the house electrical ground to that--and that was the end of damage.  Luckily his house was only a few feet above the water table in his area, and that one eight foot ground rod did the trick.  No more scrambled electronics or damage from storms.
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N3WAK
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2011, 10:24:16 AM »

Quote:  "The FT8900 is designed primarily for repeater use. While that is fine for 2 and 70 centimeters, you need to check the on site listings for any local 10 meter repeaters. There may not be any. Most hams on 10 meters use SSB because it is a more efficient transmission mode for long distance communications. Some hams like to use beams on these frequencies for longer distant point to point and NVIS FM communications. The lower the frequency, the more likely you are to be able to take advantage of NVIS on a regular basis. In the case of this radio, 10 meters will be the most likely to take advantage of the phenomenon. If there is no local 10 meter repeater, I think you will be disappointed in your purchase."

KI4SDY:  OK, I'll bite.  I can be wrong on this, and I haven't looked it up, but you're talking FM in the context of NVIS.  Isn't FM generally "line of sight," which NVIS clearly isn't?  And, isn't NVIS the result of an antenna being close to the ground in terms of wavelength?  Since a wavelength on 10 meters is much shorter than a wavelength on 160 or 80 meters, isn't it likely that one's 10m dipole (for example) is going to be high enough that it will never, ever be an NVIS antenna?  On 10 meters, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, won't one only see groundwave or skywave, and not see NVIS at all?  And, lastly, how can a radio be "designed primarily for repeater use"?  Won't the radio work fine on simplex?  Isn't it as much designed for simplex use as repeater use?    

Thanks and 73, Tony N3WAK
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KB1TXK
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2011, 11:05:10 AM »

Isn't FM generally "line of sight," which NVIS clearly isn't?  

I'm probably wrong too, but as I understand it...its the wavelength that makes something LOS or not...not the modulation type.
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WA3SKN
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2011, 01:43:29 PM »

Sorry for the wording (it was early).  I did not mean to imply that the FT8900 was not a good radio.  But I do know techs that purchased the rig only to be disappointed when they realized that they could not use it on ten meters til they upgraded their license.
I DID want the poster to check the repeaters in his area before making any purchases!  The money saved on a single purpose radio can be put toward that fancy, expensive HF rig!
73s.

-Mike.
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W8JI
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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2011, 02:05:29 PM »

Isn't FM generally "line of sight," which NVIS clearly isn't?  

I'm probably wrong too, but as I understand it...its the wavelength that makes something LOS or not...not the modulation type.

NVIS only happens below the critical frequency of the ionosphere, which can vary from maybe 7 MHz down to 1 MHz or less depending on time of day and solar weather. It is a virtually straight up and straight back down bounce.

Groundwave on low frequencies depends on ground conductivity along the signal path, polarization, and frequency.
The lower the frequency the longer the groundwave. Groundwave is ONLY vertically polarized, and it can be far beyond line of sight.

Line of sight can be any frequency but is generally better very high in frequency. It is not any particular polarization, but the polarizations at each end should be the same.

There are other modes too. Scattering and stuff.




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K9KJM
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2011, 09:54:00 PM »

I agree with the previous posts.    Make sure your lightning rods are propery grounded, And as pointed out,  Good bonding of all your ground systems (Telco, Catv, Power, Antenna masts, etc.) Is the most important part of lightning protection. So there is no difference in potential between systems during a strike.  My own tall towers also take direct lightning strikes most every storm, (As do tall commercial repeater towers, etc) With no damage to equipment.
Of all the things you do for lightning protection, The actual "device" (Lightning arrestor) is about the LEAST important.
MUCH more important is the bonding and grounding.

Unless there is a lot of 6 and 10 meter FM activity in your local area, I would avoid the Yaesu 8900, Which has a very miserable memory channel arrangement as compared to the great FT8800.  Do yourself a favor and save a few bucks and get the FT8800 Yaesu.
If you want to get on 6 and 10 meters, SSB is the way to go.  Consider a rig like the Kenwood TS 2000, Which is the true "jack of all trades, Do it all" radio. Selling good used nowadays as low as 900 bucks, And brand new for less than 1500.  (The TS2000 is actually TWO radios in one box, Capable of monitoring HF and VHF at the same time, Plus cross band repeat between HF, VHF, And UHF!  A really neat feature that none of the little "DC to daylight" mobil rigs can do.
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