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Author Topic: 18 Gauge Copper Wire Good for Grounding?  (Read 107076 times)
KF4WDD
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Posts: 3




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« on: August 10, 2014, 01:16:28 PM »

Hello - I am thinking of using 18 Gauge copper wire from my HF radio and power supply (separately)  to a small grounding bar in my shack (not yet assembled), and then having one line of 18 Gauge copper wire out the window from that bar to a grounding rod. Is this wire OK or do You recommend something else like copper braid?  Thanks.

73,
Ben KF4WDD
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W9FIB
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2014, 02:42:50 PM »

Copper braid. Or tinned copper braid.

18GA wire will burn like a fusible link in a close hit. And will leave you with burning plastic from the coating; which could start a bigger fire; and fried equipment because the ground wire could not carry all the current away.
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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
KD0SFY
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2014, 04:44:16 PM »

Hello - I am thinking of using 18 Gauge copper wire from my HF radio and power supply (separately)  to a small grounding bar in my shack (not yet assembled), and then having one line of 18 Gauge copper wire out the window from that bar to a grounding rod. Is this wire OK or do You recommend something else like copper braid?  Thanks.

73,
Ben KF4WDD

No!  And do not use braid!  Your wire is too small.  General rule of thumb, connect your devices to the grounding bar with at minimum the same gauge as the hot and neutral leads of the device.  To connect to your grounding rod you want at least 6 gauge.  

The big problem with braid is that most people do not make the connections properly and only a fraction of the strands actually make contact.  So unless you really know what you are doing and how to properly clamp or crimp braid, stay away from it.  
« Last Edit: August 10, 2014, 04:47:12 PM by KD0SFY » Logged
K1CJS
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2014, 07:35:15 AM »

If you're going to have a ground bar in your shack, you do need something a lot heavier than 18 gauge wire to connect it to ground.
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W9FIB
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2014, 12:11:34 PM »

Hello - I am thinking of using 18 Gauge copper wire from my HF radio and power supply (separately)  to a small grounding bar in my shack (not yet assembled), and then having one line of 18 Gauge copper wire out the window from that bar to a grounding rod. Is this wire OK or do You recommend something else like copper braid?  Thanks.

73,
Ben KF4WDD

No!  And do not use braid!  Your wire is too small.  General rule of thumb, connect your devices to the grounding bar with at minimum the same gauge as the hot and neutral leads of the device.  To connect to your grounding rod you want at least 6 gauge.  

The big problem with braid is that most people do not make the connections properly and only a fraction of the strands actually make contact.  So unless you really know what you are doing and how to properly clamp or crimp braid, stay away from it.  

That's true...if you don't know how to use braid, then you are better with a larger size wire. But unless you can't solder, then you cam make the connections easily. It is simply a matter of the wire end of the terminal being big enough that the entire braid fits in, and then filled with solder. Don't use terminals made for smaller wire and only putting in some of the strands. Larger size terminals are available at most any auto parts store. And the braid should have 65 -75 amp rating as a minimum. Guess I should have included some details.

In any case, 18 is way to small.

I personally use braid that can handle 150 amps. It has never let me down yet.
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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
KD0SFY
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2014, 02:25:19 PM »

It isn't that braid is necessarily bad for grounding, it is actually quite good when done properly, but for those not well versed in how to make the connections correctly it can be a bad choice.  For most folks it is best used in pre-made assemblies and only used for installations were flexibility is required (example, grounding a data/comm cabinet door).  Two primary ways of using braid is a flat clamp similar to those used with flat copper grounding strap, and properly connected terminal lugs -- crimping is best, then solder if desired.  Remember that soldering should not be relied upon for physical strength or physical connection, only for electrical bonding; this is why most high reliability installations require crimping only or crimping and soldering.  Use of any kind of mechanical saddle style connectors (example, servits) should not be done with braid. 
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W9FIB
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2014, 03:44:14 PM »

How much physical strength does it need to be a conductor between equipment and a ground bar that really doesn't move around much? Also a ground strap like that is definitely not made to hang things by. So again the electrical connection is more important then physical strength. And I challenge anyone to pull my cables apart by sliding my equipment out too fast and causing the cable to be tight.

I have had many crimp connectors fail then soldered. Most people don't have the correct tooling to do a proper job. Also have had many crimp connections corrode much quicker and make high resistance.

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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
W8JX
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2014, 06:59:56 PM »

I have had many crimp connectors fail then soldered. Most people don't have the correct tooling to do a proper job. Also have had many crimp connections corrode much quicker and make high resistance.

This speaks volumes of lack of proper practices and experience on your part. I have never had problems with crimps (which is preferred over soldering except for maybe silver soldering) or corrosion. But then if you use wrong wire, wrong crimp on terminals and wrong tools you can have problems like you have had. Its not rocket science.
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
W9FIB
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Posts: 2498




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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2014, 07:55:49 PM »

I have had many crimp connectors fail then soldered. Most people don't have the correct tooling to do a proper job. Also have had many crimp connections corrode much quicker and make high resistance.

This speaks volumes of lack of proper practices and experience on your part. I have never had problems with crimps (which is preferred over soldering except for maybe silver soldering) or corrosion. But then if you use wrong wire, wrong crimp on terminals and wrong tools you can have problems like you have had. Its not rocket science.

On my part? How do you know they were not factory crimps? That's the reason I posted about using the right parts and the right tools. Guess you missed that part. That is why I use solder. Guess you missed that too. When you see what I have, then you can comment on what I do. Right now, since you have no idea what I have, your comments are typical JX BS.

Part of Mr. Know It All BS again. Guess you better fire up your generator. Think you need more fumes!

BTW How's those jets doin in front of your garage? Still kicking in the afterburners right in front of your door? LOL That was a good piece of BS.
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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
KD0SFY
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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2014, 08:26:53 PM »

The only times I have had a crimp fail was when the wrong tool was used or the wrong lug was chosen for the wire gauge, or under conditions that would cause a purely soldered connection fail as well.

Crimp only or crimped and soldered connections are the standard in most industries, especially in those where high reliability is required. This is especially true when it comes to power and grounding.

The bottom line is what just about anyone with an electronics background was taught, make a mechanical connection first, then solder if necessary. 
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W9FIB
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 04:27:56 AM »

The only times I have had a crimp fail was when the wrong tool was used or the wrong lug was chosen for the wire gauge, or under conditions that would cause a purely soldered connection fail as well.

Crimp only or crimped and soldered connections are the standard in most industries, especially in those where high reliability is required. This is especially true when it comes to power and grounding.

The bottom line is what just about anyone with an electronics background was taught, make a mechanical connection first, then solder if necessary. 


Sorry, not "everyone" is taught that. The reason the crimp on connectors are so popular is it is much easier to manufacture at a much lower cost. The same in a job where you install cable ends very frequently. It is more about time saving then anything else.

Anyway, I still put my challenge out there to show soldered ground cables fail more than crimp in normal everyday ham shack use. But at the same time, I agree that crimped on, if done correctly, will work just as well. If you don't have the correct tooling however, soldering is the best method. And I am not going to spend a lot of money on a proper crimper when I can solder them for almost nothing. Cause the cost vs. reliability for the 1 or 2 new ones I make a year when I add equipment does not justify the tooling cost.

Plus the fact I can heat up the connector, clean the old solder and wire from it, and easily reuse it. Try that with a crimp on!

If I made 10,000 a year, that would be a different story. Then the cost of soldering would be astronomical compared to a pneumatic crimper on a production floor. Then your "being taught" would be correct from a manufacturing standpoint.

And my comparison is made from a ham shack perspective, not a production line perspective. The way some people assemble cables in a ham shack would make any production engineer laugh. And that is where the higher failure rate is introduced.
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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
KD0SFY
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Posts: 451




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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 09:16:26 AM »

The only times I have had a crimp fail was when the wrong tool was used or the wrong lug was chosen for the wire gauge, or under conditions that would cause a purely soldered connection fail as well.

Crimp only or crimped and soldered connections are the standard in most industries, especially in those where high reliability is required. This is especially true when it comes to power and grounding.

The bottom line is what just about anyone with an electronics background was taught, make a mechanical connection first, then solder if necessary. 


Sorry, not "everyone" is taught that. The reason the crimp on connectors are so popular is it is much easier to manufacture at a much lower cost. The same in a job where you install cable ends very frequently. It is more about time saving then anything else.

Anyway, I still put my challenge out there to show soldered ground cables fail more than crimp in normal everyday ham shack use. But at the same time, I agree that crimped on, if done correctly, will work just as well. If you don't have the correct tooling however, soldering is the best method. And I am not going to spend a lot of money on a proper crimper when I can solder them for almost nothing. Cause the cost vs. reliability for the 1 or 2 new ones I make a year when I add equipment does not justify the tooling cost.

Plus the fact I can heat up the connector, clean the old solder and wire from it, and easily reuse it. Try that with a crimp on!

If I made 10,000 a year, that would be a different story. Then the cost of soldering would be astronomical compared to a pneumatic crimper on a production floor. Then your "being taught" would be correct from a manufacturing standpoint.

And my comparison is made from a ham shack perspective, not a production line perspective. The way some people assemble cables in a ham shack would make any production engineer laugh. And that is where the higher failure rate is introduced.

Every electronics training I have ever attended, be it military, vocational, etc. has taught what I stated.  Every job I have ever worked dealing with power, grounds, communications has required what I stated.  In fact if my inspectors see a purely soldered connector on power or ground, they will not allow it and will mark the install as failed. 

You are obviously very set in your ways, so I will not continue to argue this with you.  Can you simply solder stuff and use solder for mechanical strength/connection?  Sure.  And it may work fine for a long time.  People do things incorrectly all the time and have them work with little problem, but that does not mean they are the correct way to do things. 
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W9FIB
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2014, 09:44:22 AM »

It is not that I am set in my ways...I have never been told that. So I guess ALL of my training was a failure. But that's fine...It really is not wrong unless it is unsafe, and proven unsafe. So far, it has not been proven to me it is unsafe for the conditions I stated. Industrial and military standards do not always coincide with household or hobby standards. Even the NEC makes distinctions. Could be that you are stuck in your ways, not me.

Guess you better never use solder type connectors then either. My heavens the wires will fall off just by looking at them! And now comes the sermon on how they are different. In the long run it is simple...The solder holds the wire in the connector while also providing an electrical connection. I don't see how the size of the connector and wire makes a difference other then the amount of solder used. Otherwise everything would mandated to be solder free!

And think about the abuse some of those cables take. Oh the horror that some would be soldered. The world is ending! Soldered connectors! Give me a break.
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73, Stan
Wisdom is knowledge you gain after you know it all.
KD0REQ
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2014, 12:27:27 PM »

a lightning hit is not going to be resolved by anything you do inside.  all it will do is shift the point at which the fire starts.  lightning needs to be kept outside, see w8ji.com or polyphaser.com.

where a ground bar inside helps is to hold the RF leaks down and safely clamp all the operating equipment to a common point to stop circulating currents.  for that you need low-impedance low-loss conductors.  flat copper strap is nice.  braid can approach that, but there can be interactions between the strands if the braid gets oxidized or corroded.  failing either, the thickest heaviest copper wire you can physically deal with is your best bet.  shortest is best.

18 gauge is going to end up giving you circulating currents and at some points on the dial, RF in the shack.  go big or go home.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2014, 12:31:47 PM by KD0REQ » Logged
KD0SFY
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Posts: 451




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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2014, 01:28:20 PM »

I never said they will fall off by just looking at them.  But, feel free to continue your histrionics.  
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